BBC rapped over Palin gag

Stahope lands radio show in hot water

The BBC has been reprimanded after Doug Stanhope cracked offensive jokes about Sarah Palin live on air.

Watchdog Ofcom has upheld a complaint that the US stand-up was out of line in calling the vice-presidential candidate’s Down’s Syndrome son ‘retarded’, and implying the disability was a punishment from God.

His comments came on the Nemone show on digital radio station 6 Music in September. The exchange, which aired in the early afternoon, went:

Stanhope: [Palin] is a 44-year-old mother of five, two of which are retarded.

Nemone: These are your, [laughs] obviously, your views…

Stanhope: One’s got Down’s Syndrome and the other volunteered for Iraq. So that’s two retards out of five.... Oh nothing. They give me nothing, nothing but blank looks.

Nemone: Doug this is your opinion, your opinion of what’s happening back home, so obviously, if something kicks off in America…

Stanhope: For Pete’s sake, don’t stare at me like that. The woman has a baby with Down’s Syndrome; how can America get behind her when even God obviously hates her. [laughs]

Nemone: I think we’ll leave that to you. That’s obviously what you think about ….

The BBC said 6 Music is aimed at an adult audience and that the presenter warned listeners to prepare themselves ‘for a vitriolic assault on the senses’ adding that Stanhope is ‘often described as the standard bearer for extreme American comedy.’

However it conceded that his comments were potentially offensive and said it regrets that the presenter did not issue a clear apology at the first available opportunity, and said it will consider pre-recording interviews with controversial guests to reduce the chances of something similar happening again.

In its ruling today, Ofcom said: ‘In this case, the word “retarded” was used in a particularly derogatory manner. First, a child with Down’s Syndrome was described as retarded.

Second, there was a highly offensive comment which described Down’s Syndrome as a form of punishment by God.

‘Both of these, in Ofcom’s opinion, went well beyond generally accepted standards and the the audience’s expectations for this programme. In this case in was clear that the context did not justify these offensive comments.’

The regulator added: ‘The presenter did not give… a sufficient reprimand or apology, which could have served to reduce the offence.’

Here is Stanhope delivering similar material as part of his stand-up show:

Published: 8 Dec 2008

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