James Cook BBC journalist recently recalled from America
There are occasions when the BBC’s mask of impartiality slips to reveal the belief system that lies just beneath the surface.
For instance, in 2017 one of the BBC’s senior North American correspondents, James Cook (now the face of BBC News in Scotland) wrote a piece for the BBC website headlined: “Giving succour to the far-Right, Trump breaks with American ideals”. In the piece Cook opined: “Did American soldiers fight and die on the beaches of Normandy so their president could promote fascism”?
It was an astonishing question, absurd even. To many it may seem offensive even to ask. But it falls to reporters to describe in plain language what we see, and the promotion of fascism and racism is all too easy to observe in the United States of 2017.
Cook posed as a fearless truth-teller. Leaving aside whether his sloppy use of the “f-word” undermined his argument (it’s the kind of usage one can forgive from callow undergraduates of Marxist persuasion, but a seasoned reporter surely should know better), there can be no doubt that this BBC correspondent nailed his colours firmly to the mast. It beggars belief that what Cook wrote could be considered anything other than a serious breach of the Corporation’s doctrine of impartiality.
But, typically and predictably, the BBC’s complaints unit had no difficulty exonerating their man. “It is not unusual” the unit decided “for correspondents to offer their own take on developments……..BBC News does not have an opinion on Donald Trump’s presidency…….we do not aim to denigrate or to promote any view. Our goal is simply to report and analyse…”
But the BBC’s high-handed claims about impartiality and fairness are a sham revealed by their statement that Cook’s opinions were his own and the fact that they appeared on the BBC website should not be taken to mean they had the Corporation’s approval. A doctrine, if widely applied is an open invitation for BBC staffers to mouth-off their personal views on just about anything without fear of reprimand.
Cook and the BBC conducted a lengthy and sustained campaign portraying Trump as unworthy, incompetent and wicked. It did not determine the outcome of the US election, but it had some effect. Trump may not have been a perfect president……but, as in the case of many previous incumbents…..he was a flawed individual who, despite the campaign of vilification he was forced to endure did manage so do many good things.
The closing point is that the BBC is impervious to criticism of its claims of impartiality and fairness. But the ill concealed contradiction between the BBC’s claims of impartiality and Cook’s biased utterances encourages the view that the corporation’s sugared blandishments are a sham and Americans, are now aware of the reality lurking beneath the rhetoric.
This adds urgency to the many requests from Scots for legislation formally committing the organisation’s vows of impartiality to statute.
(Summary of an article in “The Critic”, written by Robin Aitken, MBE. who is a British journalist who for many years worked for the BBC. His 2007 book “Can We Trust the BBC?” alleged pervasive and institutional liberal-left wing bias at the national broadcaster