Fiona Bruce has stepped back as an ambassador of domestic abuse charity Refuge following claims she had trivialised domestic violence during a discussion about Stanley Johnson on Question Time.
The presenter of the BBC politics show faced a social media backlash after intervening when the 82-year-old father of former prime minister Boris Johnson was talked about on Thursday night.
In a statement given to the PA news agency, Bruce said that she was “required to legally contextualise” a response about Mr Johnson and the words are not an expression of her own opinions and she would never minimise domestic abuse.
The 58-year-old former newsreader added: “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 have been a passionate advocate and campaigner for all survivors of domestic abuse, and have used my privileged position as a woman in the public eye to bring this issue to the fore, notably in my work for over 25 years with Refuge.
“But following the events of last week, I have faced a social media storm, much of which mischaracterised what I said and took the form of personal abuse directed at me.
“The only people that matter in all this are the survivors, they are my priority.”
Last week on Question Time, Yasmin Alibhai-Brown said Mr Johnson’s alleged history of violence was “on record” and he was a “wife beater”.
Ms Bruce interrupted, telling journalist and panel member Ms Alibhai-Brown and the audience: “I’m not disputing what you’re saying, but just so everyone knows what this is referring to, Stanley Johnson’s wife spoke to a journalist, Tom Bower, and she said that Stanley Johnson had broken her nose and that she’d ended up in hospital as a result.
“Stanley Johnson has not commented publicly on that. Friends of his have said it did happen but it was a one-off.”
Bruce also said she did not want the issue to create a “distraction” for Refuge and it has been a “hard decision” to pause her work with the charity as she feels “so strongly” about tackling domestic abuse.
The Antiques Roadshow presenter added: “I will continue to be an active supporter, albeit from the sidelines for now.”
In a statement on Monday, Refuge thanked Fiona Bruce for her “considerable contribution” to their work over the years and said the charity had “accepted” her offer to stand down.
The charity acknowledged that while the words the BBC presenter had used around claims about Johnson were not her own, this did not reduce their “impact” and had “minimised the seriousness of domestic abuse”.
Refuge also said: “Over the weekend we have been listening to, and heard, survivors of domestic abuse who have told us how devastating this has been for them…
“Survivors of domestic abuse are, and will always be, Refuge’s priority.
“Our focus must remain on them. Every two minutes someone turns to Refuge for help and our priority is the women and their children who need us.
The charity also said domestic abuse is “never a ‘one-off’” but a “pattern of behaviour” that is “not acceptable”.
She added: “Even if abuse is an isolated event, it would have still been domestic abuse, and this should never be minimised.”
Labour MP Kate Osborne was another public figure to criticise Bruce, saying in a post on Twitter that the discussion “trivialised” violence against women and called it “disgraceful”.
In a statement on Friday, the BBC said: “Domestic abuse is abhorrent, and we would never wish to suggest otherwise.
“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 Bruce was doing last night.
“She was not expressing any personal opinion about the situation.”