Gary Lineker insists his tweets on Government policy were ‘factually accurate’

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Gary Lineker has said he still believes his tweet about the Government’s “cruel” asylum policy was “factually accurate”.

The Match Of The Day presenter told Alastair Campbell, during an interview for Men’s Health UK magazine, that he stood by his comments.

The BBC has launched an independent review of its social media guidance for freelancers following an impartiality row prompted by Lineker’s tweets.

Alastair Campbell expulsion
Men’s Health UK Talking Heads columnist Alastair Campbell (Dominic Lipinski/PA)

He later returned to his Match Of The Day presenting role following a boycott by top on-air talent.

As part of Men’s Health UK’s Talking Heads interview series, Lineker said: “When I sent that tweet, it honestly never even crossed my mind that it would lead to where it went.

“I’ve worked with refugees’ charities for years.

“So, when I saw the Suella Braverman film, I said I thought it was pretty awful.

“Then the ‘stick to football’ people weighed in and I replied to one of them, just saying there was no massive influx, the UK takes far fewer refugees than other European countries, this is a cruel policy, and the language used in the debate reminds us of the debate in Germany in the 1930s.

“I think that is factually accurate.”

Lineker said that when new social media guidance was introduced by director-general Tim Davie in October 2020, he agreed that he would not stop “occasionally” tweeting about two issues – climate change and refugees.

“I wasn’t prepared to back down on that, especially as I felt and still feel that what I tweeted was fair and true,” he added.

“I wasn’t abusive, I wasn’t saying she (Braverman) was a Nazi.

“I talked about the use of words like ‘invasion’ and ‘swarms’ and ‘criminals’ and ‘rapists’, which I think we should be very careful about because it has real-life consequences.”

Lineker said that after he had been taken off air by the BBC he found it “hard to see how it got resolved unless they backed down”.

“And I think the key moment was when the other presenters and then the commentators made it clear they wouldn’t go on if I was taken off air,” he added.

Addressing the broadcaster’s director-general, he said: “To be fair to Tim Davie, he admitted they had got it wrong and sorted it out.

“I love the BBC and I was very glad to be back on air and talking about football again.”

Campbell previously spoke to Lineker about the issue for his podcast with former Tory MP Rory Stewart, The Rest Is Politics: Leading, which is produced by Lineker’s own Goalhanger Podcasts company.

– Gary Lineker was speaking to Men’s Health UK Talking Heads columnist, Alastair Campbell in an interview available on the magazine’s website now.

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