Channel 4 News condemn Sun columnist Kelvin MacKenzie after attack on hijab-wearing presenter

Channel 4 News have condemned Sun columnist Kelvin MacKenzie's "completely unacceptable" comments after he criticised the broadcaster for using a Muslim presenter as part of its coverage of the Nice lorry massacre.

In his latest Sun column, the newspaper's former editor MacKenzie wrote he "could hardly believe (his) eyes" when he saw "a young lady wearing a hijab" presenting from London after lead presenter Jon Snow had conducted an interview from the French holiday resort.

Channel 4 News said the comments about Fatima Manji were "offensive" and "arguably tantamount to inciting religious and even racial hatred".

Mohamed Lahouaiej Bouhlel, a 31-year-old French-Tunisian delivery driver, killed 84 people after driving into crowds celebrating France's national Bastille Day.

French authorities have said Bouhlel had been very quickly radicalised by Islamic extremists after previously showing little interest in religion.

Former Sun editor MacKenzie's column, written days after the attack, was titled: "Why did Channel 4 have a presenter in a hijab fronting coverage of Muslim terror in Nice?"

Kelvin MacKenzie's column appeared in The Sun's print edition and online. Credit:

"Her name is Fatima Manji and she has been with the station for four years," he wrote. "Was it appropriate for her to be on camera when there had been yet another shocking slaughter by a Muslim?"

He added: "Would the C4 editor have used a Hindu to report on the carnage at the Golden Temple of Amritsar? Of course not. Would the station have used an Orthodox Jew to cover the Israeli-Palestine conflict? Of course not."

MacKenzie went on to attack "the C4 twerps" and claimed they avoided a "bigger row" by not removing Ms Manji from the coverage as he called for the Government to sell the channel, which is largely commercially self-funded but public-owned.

He said he regarded Ms Manji as a "pawn in this TV news game" but Twitter users, including SNP MP Tasmina Sheikh, rallied behind the presenter as MacKenzie's column was variously condemned as "disgusting" and "vile".

A spokeswoman for Channel 4 News said: “The comments published in The Sun today by Mr MacKenzie are offensive, completely unacceptable, and arguably tantamount to inciting religious and even racial hatred.

"It is wrong to suggest that a qualified journalist should be barred from reporting on a particular story or present on a specific day because of their faith. Fatima Manji is an award-winning journalist.

"We are proud that she is part of our team and will receive, as ever, our full support in the wake of his comments.”

The column is not the first time MacKenzie has attracted criticism for an anti-Muslim statement.

He drew a similarly angry response to a column in November last year in which he wrote he would "never again take (a) holiday in a Muslim country".