Broadcaster and Scots cyclist Mark Beaumont was grappled to the floor by a judo champion during a news item and remarked: “I am not sure I can live that down – being beaten by a 19-year-old girl.”
When the half-hour episode of The Queen’s Baton Relay was originally aired in April on the BBC News channel, the 31-year-old’s remark was broadcast in full. However, the word “girl” was edited out of a repeat of the programme last week – a decision which seemed to baffle the TV presenter himself.
Asked by a viewer on Twitter what had happened, the cyclist replied: “Not sure – I just saw that myself and was wondering the same thing.”
He added: “Maybe the editor thought it was sexist – it wasn’t. I’m not worried about it”.
Cynthia Rahming, the judo champion, was also left bemused, saying: “I wasn’t offended – I didn’t find it sexist.”
A BBC spokeswoman said the word “girl” had been taken out of the programme “in case” it caused offence.
But feminist novelist Kathy Lette, 55, hit out at the BBC, saying: “If the athlete didn’t find it upsetting, why should the BBC mount their politically correct high horse and gallop off into the sanctimonious sunset?”
TV presenter Anthea Turner, 53, said the BBC’s decision was “silly”.
She said: “The problem now is that people have become over- sensitive – and the BBC has become too over-cautious.”
Labour MSP Jenny Marra, who sits on Holyrood’s culture committee, told The Scotsman: “I can understand why the BBC took it out but it doesn’t seem to me that it was an overtly sexist comment. Some people will think it’s sexist and some won’t; it’s going to split opinion, but it doesn’t appear to be overtly sexist to me.”
But Miriam O’Reilly, 57, who sued the BBC for age discrimination after being dropped as the presenter of Countryfile, agreed with the decision.
She said: “The response from Mark Beaumont to Cynthia Rahming throwing him to the ground was to emphasise his faux embarrassment. He used the word ‘girl’ because it has connotations of being younger and weaker. I think he immediately realised what he said was sexist.
“He knew he was going to be thrown by Cynthia. He and the director obviously thought to play up the being thrown by a ‘girl’ aspect would be funny, when in reality it’s an example of casual everyday sexism”.
The new PC row comes two weeks after the corporation was accused of double standards when it forced veteran broadcaster David Lowe to quit for mistakenly playing an old version of The Sun Has Got His Hat On, which contained a racist term. Jeremy Clarkson kept his job when he appeared to use the same racist term during filming for Top Gear.
A BBC spokeswoman said: “Mark didn’t mean to cause offence. But the word ‘girl’ was taken out just in case it did.”