Wed, Dec 08, 2010 - Page 6 News List

BBC presenter’s embarrassing gaffe sparks comments

NAUGHTIE WORDS:A BBC Radio 4 presenter struggled to deliver the news after mixing up a minister’s surname with a profane word that rhymed

The Guardian, LONDON

Today presenter James Naughtie was both congratulated and condemned after he accidentally introduced British Secretary of Culture Jeremy Hunt as Jeremy Cunt live on air on Monday.

The BBC Radio 4 gaffe sparked a flurry of online comments, which were refueled just over an hour later when Andrew Marr — presumably in an effort to maintain editorial consistency — made exactly the same mistake on the same station’s Start the Week program.

Naughtie’s mistake came just before the 8am news as he trailed an 8:10am interview with Hunt.

“First up after the news, we’re going to be talking to Jeremy Cunt,” the Scotsman said before swiftly correcting himself.

As the pips signaling the headlines were broadcast, Naughtie struggled to deliver the main news from around the world over what sounded like a coughing fit.

Twitter was immediately awash with comments — not least from the Today program’s own feed.

“Yes, your ears deceived you. Move along now, nothing to see here ...,” @r4today tweeted.

The term “Naughtie” soon became one of the most discussed in the UK, with “Jeremy Hunt” not far behind.

Predictably, Internet wags were out in force.

“Sounds like the internet owes Jim Naughtie a pint this morning, then. :),” @gwenhwyfaer posted.

@ntheowl quipped: “Jim Naughtie Radio 4 Man of the Year! ‘He tells it as it is.’”

Naughtie came back on air at about 8:20am, apologizing and saying he had “got into an awful tangle just before the 8am news, courtesy of Dr Spooner.”

Spooner was an Oxford professor who was so famous for muddling his words that he gave rise to the term “Spoonerism.”

“We know from e-mails that some of you thought it was funny and others were very offended,” Naughtie added. “I’m very sorry to those of you who thought it wasn’t what you wanted to hear over your breakfast. Neither did I.”

Hunt tweeted: “They say prepare for anything before going on Today, but that took the biscuit ... I was laughing as much as u Jim, or shld I say Dr Spooner.”

However, Hunt’s patience was tested further just after 9:30am when Marr hosted a discussion about the Freudian slip as a follow-up to his colleague’s mistake.

“We’re not going to repeat in quite the terms it happened,” Marr promised, before repeating exactly the same mistake Naughtie had made.

Marr quickly corrected himself and apologized, saying: “It’s very hard to talk about it without saying it.”

Both presenters may find some solace in knowing that they are not the first broadcasters to inadvertently blurt out the C-word.

Their BBC colleague Nicky Campbell has a track record of using the profanity on air, perhaps most memorably when introducing the “master of the west Kent hunt” — with imaginable consequences.

Both Naughtie and Marr would make personal apologies to Hunt in the wake of their dual slip-up, the BBC said yesterday.

The corporation said it had received 16 complaints about the incidents on the Today program and Start the Week.

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