Gary Lineker has come out fighting after critics said he should lose his job with the BBC over comments he made about the government’s immigration policy.
Lineker, 62, has been criticised by Tory MPs and some parts of the media after he likened the language used by the government around new rules on illegal immigration to that used by the Nazi regime.
On Tuesday, Lineker wrote on Twitter about a Home Office video in which Suella Braverman unveiled the government’s plans to stop migrants crossing the Channel on small boats and said the UK is being “overwhelmed”.
The Match Of The Day host wrote: “There is no huge influx. We take far fewer refugees than other major European countries.
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, and I’m out of order?
— Gary Lineker 💙💛 (@GaryLineker) March 7, 2023
“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.”
Critics say Lineker should not be making political comments as he is a BBC presenter, and therefore bound by impartiality rules.
BBC director-general Tim Davie warned staff about their use of social media when he took on the role at the end of 2020, and guidelines around social media use have since been updated.
Have your say: Should Gary Lineker lose his job at the BBC?
Staff were told they needed to follow editorial guidelines and editorial oversight in the same way as when doing BBC content.
Other critics say that Lineker should not be alluding to the horrors of the Nazi regime, with some Jewish commentators calling on him to apologise.
Speaking to the BBC's Political Thinking podcast, Braverman – whose husband is Jewish – said his characterisation of her immigration policy diminishes the "unspeakable tragedy of the Holocaust" and was "offensive and lazy and unhelpful".
Lineker has said he stands by his criticism of the government, telling reporters this morning that he did not fear suspension over his tweets.
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 to the waiting car, he was asked if he regretted his tweet, responding “no” and asked if he stood by it he said “course”.
Watch: Gary Lineker says he stands by criticism of government’s immigration policy
The presenter and former footballer has also seen support over his comments, including from TalkTV presenter Piers Morgan, who argued that Lineker is “not a news reporter”.
Morgan said Lineker’s remarks were “clearly incendiary” but insisted that his opinions “should not matter to the BBC’s news output”.
Last year 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.
Speaking on Times Radio, Roger Mosey, formerly head of BBC television news and director of sport, said his “sympathies” lay with Lineker’s “side of this argument”.
However, he added the problem with allowing him to express his views openly was it would allow other BBC employees to question why they are not entitled to give their opinions on issues.
Lineker is a freelance broadcaster for the BBC, not a permanent member of staff, and is not responsible for news or political content so it has been argued that he does not need to adhere to the same rules on impartiality.