The broadcaster Danny Baker has been fired by BBC Radio 5 Live following allegations of racism over a tweet about the Duke and Duchess of Sussex’s newborn son, Archie, that featured a picture of a chimpanzee.
The tweet, which has since been deleted by Baker, showed a black and white photo of a well-dressed couple next to a suited chimpanzee with the caption: “Royal baby leaves hospital.”
Baker apologised for using the picture but was sacked on Thursday morning, leading him to lash out at the corporation over its handling of the incident.
A BBC spokesperson said: “This was a serious error of judgment and goes against the values we as a station aim to embody. Danny’s a brilliant broadcaster but will no longer be presenting a weekly show with us.”
Prince Harry and Meghan, whose mother is African American, revealed on Wednesday their new arrival was named Archie Harrison Mountbatten-Windsor.
Following allegations of racism over the tweet, Baker deleted the post on Wednesday. “Sorry my gag pic of the little fella in the posh outfit has whipped some up. Never occurred to me because, well, mind not diseased,” he said.
“Soon as those good enough to point out it’s possible connotations got in touch, down it came. And that’s it.”
Baker, 61, repeated his apology on Wednesday evening, saying the post was intended to poke fun at the royal family.
“Once again. Sincere apologies for the stupid unthinking gag pic earlier. Was supposed to be joke about royals vs circus animals in posh clothes but interpreted as about monkeys & race, so rightly deleted,” he said on Twitter. “Royal watching not my forte. Also, guessing it was my turn in the barrel.”
After the BBC sacked him, Baker attacked the corporation for its handling of the decision, which he called “a masterclass of pompous faux-gravity”.
He tweeted: “Took a tone that said I actually meant that ridiculous tweet and the BBC must uphold blah blah blah. Literally threw me under the bus. Could hear the suits knees knocking.”
In an LBC interview after he was fired, Baker told James O’Brien: “It was put up there as a joke about class. It was supposed to be preposterous about toffs leaving. The idea that there was any racial basis for it … it came out of my own ignorance.
“I curdled that I thought anyone could have thought that was the intent behind that photo.”
Many public figures felt the BBC had made the right decision. Charlene White, an anchor at ITV News, said: “To claim ‘ignorance’, and give a half-hearted apology – again full of jokey ‘banter’ – despite people highlighting just how clearly offensive it is, is also unacceptable. That’s not the world we live in now. Those who live in privilege must be held to account.”
The writer and broadcaster Afua Hirsch tweeted: “Not only does Danny Baker post an image comparing a baby w African heritage to an ape, but he has the audacity to say problem is that those of us who point out how racist it is have ‘diseased minds’.”
Baker, a prominent and popular voice on the BBC and elsewhere for decades, has had run-ins with the corporation before. In 1997, he was sacked from the same station after it was alleged he had incited threatening behaviour after a referee awarded a controversial penalty in an FA cup tie.
In 2012, after his afternoon show on BBC London was axed, he said on Twitter: “BBC asked me not to say anything just yet about axing best show on British radio. Why? Because it’s embarrassing? Because they’ll look bad?”
He later branded his bosses “pinheaded weasels” during an on-air rant during the programme.
The DJ and comedy writer has been working intermittently for the BBC since the 1980s.
The Guardian (UK)