BBC Defends, Later Retracts Joke About Throwing Acid at Politicians

June 14th, 2019 5:28 PM

BBC Radio 4's show Heresy is a self-admittedly provocative show, but one comedian's recent joke or "joke" led to a police investigation.

It all started when Jo Brand determined that throwing milkshakes at politicians was just too tame:

Certain unpleasant characters are being thrown to the fore and they’re very, very easy to hate and I’m kind of thinking, why bother with a milkshake when you could get some battery acid?

That’s just me. I’m not going to do it. It’s purely a fantasy. But I think milkshakes are pathetic, I honestly do, sorry.

Brexit Party leader Nigel Farage, who was a target of one of the milkshake hurlers that CBS just a couple of weeks ago found humorous, did not take kindly to the suggestion that one should throw battery acid at him and demanded the police look into Brand for potentially inciting violence. While the police looked into the matter, the BBC defended Brand and the show. Heresy host Victoria Coren Mitchell defended the interviewing, quote-tweeting Farage, she tweeted, "Nigel! I’m genuinely disappointed; we don’t agree on everything, but I would totally have had you down as a free speech man. Especially when it comes to jokes." The BBC itself said that jokes on the program are "deliberately provocative as the title implies" and are "not intended to be taken seriously."

After strong pushback, the BBC edited the lines out of the program:

We carefully considered the programme before broadcast. It was never intended to encourage or condone violence, and it does not do so, but we have noted the strong reaction to it.

Comedy will always push boundaries and will continue to do so, but on this occasion we have decided to edit the programme. We regret any offence we have caused.

Brand later, in a both-sidesism-esque apology, conceded that "Looking back on it I think it was a somewhat crass and an ill-judged joke," but added that, "Female politicians and public figures are threatened day in, day out, with far worse things than battery acid... rape, murder and what have you." Show creator David Baddiel called the decision "cowardly," stating that comedy "will always push boundaries," but that the show "never intended to encourage or condone violence." The Metropolitan Police ultimately declined to pursue action against Brand.