Fiona Bruce steps back from charity role after fury over her domestic abuse remark in Stanley Johnson discussion | The Sun

QUESTION Time host Fiona Bruce is stepping down from her role at a domestic abuse charity after she was accused of trivialising “violence against women”.

The veteran BBC presenter was engulfed in a row over Boris' Johnson's dad Stanley, who was branded a "wife beater" on the show.

Journalist and panel member Yasmin Alibhai-Brown said his alleged history of violence was "on the record".

But Fiona interrupted, telling the audience on Thursday: "Stanley Johnson’s wife spoke to a journalist, Tom Bower, and she said Stanley Johnson had broken her nose and she had ended up in hospital as a result.

“Stanley Johnson has not commented publicly on that. Friends of his have said it did happen, it was a one off.”

Fiona today announced she has stepped down from her role as ambassador for charity Refuge following a storm over her comments.

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She said: "It is with real sadness that I have decided to step back from my role as an ambassador for the domestic abuse charity Refuge.

"Last week on Question Time, I was required to legally contextualise a question about Stanley Johnson. Those words have been taken as an expression of my own opinions which they are absolutely not, and as a minimising of domestic abuse, which I would never do.

"I know survivors of domestic abuse have been distressed by what I was required to say on-air. For that, I am deeply sorry. I cannot change what I was required to say, but I can apologise for the very real impact that I can see it has had."

Fiona also said she was a "passionate advocate" for survivors of domestic abuse and said she had been subject to a "social media storm" which "mischaracterised" her words.

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The presenter, who has worked with Refuge for 25 years, added: "The only people that matter in all this are the survivors, they are my priority.

"The last thing in the world that I would want is that this issue in any way creates a distraction from Refuge's critical work on their behalf, and therefore I think the right thing to do is to step back from my role with Refuge.

"This has been a hard decision for me as I feel so strongly about promoting their work and advancing awareness of this issue. I will continue to be an active supporter, albeit from the sidelines for now."

Refuge thanked Fiona for her "considerable contribution" but acknowledged that while the words she used were not her own, they had "minimised the seriousness of domestic abuse".

The charity said: "Refuge's position was, and remains, clear – domestic abuse is never a 'one-off', it is a pattern of behaviour that can manifest in a number of ways, including but not limited to physical abuse.

"Survivors of domestic abuse are, and will always be, Refuge's priority."

Fiona's comments on the panel show sparked fury among ministers.

The remark came amid fury ex-PM Boris was putting his dad up for a knighthood in his resignation honours list.

Labour MP Kate Osborne and chief executive of Women’s Aid Farah Nazeer accused her of downplaying the seriousness of domestic abuse.

Ms Osborne said: "International Women’s Day this week and Fiona Bruce trivialises violence against women: Stanley Johnson’s friends say ‘it was a one off’ that he broke his wife’s nose Disgraceful."

While Ms Nazeer said Women's Aid was "shocked" by Fiona's response and called it "unnecessary and irresponsible".

She added: "We know at Women’s Aid that domestic abuse is rarely, if ever, a ’one-off’, with the vast majority of abuse being a pattern of behaviour that includes different forms of abuse.

"Even if abuse is an isolated event, it would have still been domestic abuse, and this should never be minimised.”

How you can get help

Women’s Aid has this advice for victims and their families:

  • Always keep your phone nearby.
  • Get in touch with charities for help, including the Women’s Aid live chat helpline and services such as SupportLine.
  • If you are in danger, call 999.
  • Familiarise yourself with the Silent Solution, reporting abuse without speaking down the phone, instead dialing “55”.
  • Always keep some money on you, including change for a pay phone or bus fare.
  • If you suspect your partner is about to attack you, try to go to a lower-risk area of the house – for example, where there is a way out and access to a telephone.
  • Avoid the kitchen and garage, where there are likely to be knives or other weapons. Avoid rooms where you might become trapped, such as the bathroom, or where you might be shut into a cupboard or other small space.

If you are a ­victim of domestic abuse, SupportLine is open Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday from 6pm to 8pm on 01708 765200. The charity’s email support ­service is open weekdays and weekends during the crisis – [email protected]

Women’s Aid provides a live chat service – available weekdays from 8am-6pm and weekends 10am-6pm.

You can also call the freephone 24-hour ­National Domestic Abuse Helpline on 0808 2000 247.

The BBC last week confirmed it was standing by Fiona, who also presents Antiques Roadshow.

A statement said: "Domestic abuse is abhorrent, and we would never wish to suggest otherwise.

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"When serious allegations are made on air against people or organisations, it is the job of BBC presenters to ensure that the context of those allegations – and any right of reply from the person or organisation – is given to the audience, and this is what Fiona was doing last night.

"She was not expressing any personal opinion about this situation.”

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