FIONA Bruce will step back from her role as a domestic abuse charity ambassador after claims she trivialised domestic abuse.
The Question Time presenter faced fierce backlash after she appeared to minimise accusations of domestic abuse levelled against Stanley Johnson, the father of Boris Johnson.
During a segment on the BBC show last week, when it was pointed out Stanley Johnson had once been accused of breaking his ex-wife’s nose, Bruce said it had only happened once.
Bruce has now announced she is stepping back from her role as an ambassador for the domestic abuse charity Refuge “with real sadness” over the comments.
On the March 9 programme, Bruce interrupted after panel member and journalist Yasmin Alibhai-Brown said Stanley Johnson’s alleged history of violence was “on record”.
Bruce then said: “I’m not disputing what you’re saying, but just so everyone knows what this is referring to, Stanley Johnson’s wife spoke to a journalist, Tom Bower, and she said that Stanley Johnson had broken her nose and that she’d ended up in hospital as a result.
“Stanley Johnson has not commented publicly on that. Friends of his have said it did happen but it was a one-off.”
In a statement to the press, Bruce said on Monday: “It is with real sadness that I have decided to step back from my role as an ambassador for the domestic abuse charity Refuge.
“Last week on Question Time, I was required to legally contextualise a question about Stanley Johnson. Those words have been taken as an expression of my own opinions which they are absolutely not, and as a minimising of domestic abuse, which I would never do.
“I know survivors of domestic abuse have been distressed by what I was required to say on-air. For that, I am deeply sorry. I cannot change what I was required to say, but I can apologise for the very real impact that I can see it has had.
“I have been a passionate advocate and campaigner for all survivors of domestic abuse, and have used my privileged position as a woman in the public eye to bring this issue to the fore, notably in my work for over 25 years with Refuge.
“But following the events of last week, I have faced a social media storm, much of which mischaracterised what I said and took the form of personal abuse directed at me.
“The only people that matter in all this are the survivors, they are my priority. The last thing in the world that I would want is that this issue in any way creates a distraction from Refuge’s critical work on their behalf, and therefore I think the right thing to do is to step back from my role with Refuge.
“This has been a hard decision for me as I feel so strongly about promoting their work and advancing awareness of this issue. I will continue to be an active supporter, albeit from the sidelines for now.”
A BBC spokesperson said: “Domestic abuse is abhorrent, and we would never wish to suggest otherwise.
“When serious allegations are made on air against people or organisations, it is the job of BBC presenters to ensure that the context of those allegations – and any right of reply from the person or organisation – is given to the audience, and this is what Fiona Bruce was doing on [March 9].
“She was not expressing any personal opinion about the situation.”