Eamonn Holmes has come under fire for asking activist Femi Oluwole whether or not he finds the word ‘slave’ offensive.
During a segment on the This Morning show on Wednesday, Holmes and co-host Ruth Langsford interviewed Oluwole and Brexiteer Nigel Farage about a recent row involving the BBC Proms.
The row started after the Sunday Times released an unconfirmed report that lyrics featured in the songs ‘Rule Britannia!’ and ‘Land of Hope and Glory’ were causing concern among key orchestra members for their reference to slavery and colonialism.
It was reported the songs may be dropped from the BBC Proms event entirely.
The BBC then confirmed that instrumental versions of the songs would be played this year due to concerns about coronavirus, but it will go back to normal next year.
In a statement, the public broadcaster said:
For the avoidance of any doubt, these songs will be sung next year.
We obviously share the disappointment of everyone that the Proms will have to be different but believe this is the best solution in the circumstances and look forward to their traditional return next year.
But the culture war discourse over whether or not these songs are offensive is in full swing.
Soon enough, Boris Johnson weighed in.
He said on Tuesday evening:
I think it's time we stopped our cringing embarrassment about our history, about our traditions, and about our culture, and we stopped this general fight of self-recrimination and wetness.
Cut to Wednesday and This Morning wanted to weigh in on the debate by inviting Farage and Oluwole on their show to discuss the songs.
During the interview, Oluwole said the debate was a distraction to the real issues:
People marched in the streets about Black Lives Matter. Not one of the people was marching about ‘Rule Britannia!’
The segment descended into Farage calling Oluwole an “extremist” and then the hosts playing versions of both songs for the guests.
Langsford then brought up a poll the show did with their viewers that found 91 per cent of people thought the songs shouldn’t be banned. She then asked Oluwole to discuss what it is in the songs that people object to and why he thinks they should be left behind.
If we’re talking about this song specifically, the line about how our bounds are wider set still [and] the idea of increasing our territory. The idea the UK is an empire constantly increasing its territory might not sit well with you if you live in Northern Ireland and you’re on the nationalist side of things…
The idea that this represents the fight for racial equality is laughable.
Holmes then interjected and brought up the national anthem of Ireland, which also uses the word “slave”.
The host asked:
Do you have an issue with the word ‘slave’ used in the Irish national anthem?
When asked to clarify the context, Holmes responded:
I’m asking you: Do you have an explanation of the context though? Because every time the ‘S’ word is used, you have an issue with it.
Well, it’s an issue within the context of ‘Rule Britannia!’ on the basis that we were bragging about how we were in a position of enslaving other countries whilst ourselves not being slaves.
Some people on social media thought Holmes’ line of questioning was "embarrassing", "offensive" and “disgusting”:
indy100 reached out to Femi Oluwole, Eamonn Holmes and ITV for comment on the incident.
If they respond, we'll let you know.