Gary Lineker has 'no regrets' after criticising the government's migrant policy in a tweet and is confident he will not be suspended from the BBC, reports ITV News Correspondent Rebecca Barry
It comes as the Culture Secretary described the Match Of The Day presenter’s comments as “disappointing and inappropriate” and said it was important for the BBC to maintain impartiality if it is to “retain the trust of the public who pay the licence fee”.
Mr Lineker, 62, has faced criticism from members of the Tory party after comparing the language used to launch the policy with 1930s Germany.
He was responding to a Home Office video of the home secretary talking about her Illegal Immigration Bill, which will force detention on virtually everyone who enters the UK illegally and make it impossible for most to claim asylum.
In the video, Ms Braverman said "enough is enough, we must stop the boats" when referring to migrants crossing the English Channel, adding that the UK was being "overwhelmed" by asylum seekers.
Gary Lineker was asked by reporters if he regretted his tweet, responding “no” and asked if he stood by it he said “course”
On Thursday Mr Lineker told reporters “yes I would like to say something, very good morning to you” as he walked to a waiting car outside his London home on Thursday morning.
As he walked round the back of the car, he said “no” when asked if he fears suspension over his tweets.
Then as he climbed into the rear passenger seat, he responded to a reporter asking if he has spoken to the BBC, saying: “I’m always talking to the BBC."
Asked if he had spoken to the director-general, he said, after a pause, “yeah” before adding “he said… well we chat often”.
Before closing the door, he was asked if he regretted his tweet, responding “no” and asked if he stood by it he said “course”.
Mr Lineker later tweeted that he is happy that "this ridiculously out of proportion story seems to be abating".
He added that he is “looking forward” to hosting Match Of The Day on Saturday amid the speculation about his future at the BBC.
Last year Mr Lineker was named as the BBC’s top earning on-air talent for the fifth consecutive year, and was paid between £1,350,000 and £1,354,999 in 2021/2022 for Match Of The Day and Sports Personality Of The Year.
He is a freelance broadcaster for the BBC, not a permanent member of staff, and is not responsible for news or political content so does not need to adhere to the same rules on impartiality.
The ex-England striker had tweeted: “There is no huge influx. We take far fewer refugees than other major European countries.
“This is just an immeasurably cruel policy directed at the most vulnerable people in language that is not dissimilar to that used by Germany in the ’30s.”
He later responded to the criticism on Twitter, writing that he had never known such “love and support” and promised to “continue to try and speak up for those poor souls that have no voice”.
The home secretary told ITV’s Good Morning Britain (GMB) she was "very disappointed" by his comments.
Ms Braverman added: "Equating our measures - which are lawful, necessary and fundamentally compassionate - to 1930s Germany is irresponsible and I disagree with that characterisation."
Speaking in the Commons earlier on Thursday, Penny Mordaunt referenced Mr Lineker's comments and added: "Labour are borrowing from the Gary Lineker playbook".
The Commons Leader said the Opposition is a “party of goal hangers” who are “poised to seize any opportunities and to take an easy shot”.
Instead, Ms Mordaunt added, the country needs “centre forwards” who “put in the hard work” and take “tough decisions” – something she said the government is doing.
In response to a clip of Ms Mordaunt's speech, Mr Lineker tweeted: "Thank you for mentioning me in your clumsy analogy.
"I’m just happy to have been better in the 6 yard box than you are at the dispatch box. Best wishes."
Culture Secretary Lucy Frazer said it was important for the BBC to maintain impartiality if it is to “retain the trust of the public who pay the licence fee”.
She added: “As somebody whose grandmother escaped Nazi Germany in the 1930s, I think it’s really disappointing and inappropriate to compare government policy on immigration to events in Germany in the 1930s.”
Ms Frazer added that she was “pleased” the BBC was speaking to Mr Lineker “to remind him of his responsibilities in relation to social media”.
Want a quick and expert briefing on the biggest news stories? Listen to our latest podcasts to find out What You Need To Know