The joke about the Queen’s grandson was described by the defence minister as “Disgraceful, shoddy, appalling and out of order.”
Note: This article is from the Guardian.
The BBC stood by its satirical news quiz Have I Got News For You despite criticism of a joke by the guest presenter, Jo Brand, that suggested Prince Harry snorts cocaine.
Brand made the remark during Friday night’s edition of the long-running BBC1 panel show in a discussion about the names of Prince George’s new godparents.
Reading from an autocue, Brand said: “George’s godparents include Hugh van Cutsem… I presume that’s a nickname as in Hugh van cuts ‘em and Harry then snorts ‘em.”
The comment prompted one of the team captains, Ian Hislop, to ask: “Have we lost the lawyers?”
The joke about the Queen’s grandson, who is a captain with the Army Air Corps and has served on two tours of Afghanistan, was described by the defence minister, Anna Soubry, as “disgraceful, shoddy, appalling and out of order”.
The Tory MP added: “Jo Brand should not have stooped to that level and both she and the BBC should apologise.”
The former head of the army Lord Dannatt said: “It might have been said as a joke but the suggestion is outrageous. It is a very unfortunate joke to make and most inappropriate.”
The BBC said it stood by the joke in the programme, which was still available to watch on its iPlayer website on Sunday. A spokesman said: “Have I Got News For You is a satirical news quiz and the audience is used to the often irreverent humour.
“This line was a play on words as part of a section on the surnames of those involved in the christening and was clearly tongue-in-cheek.”
The prince once confessed to his father, the Prince of Wales, that he smoked cannabis and was taken to a drug rehabilitation clinic for a day, it was revealed in 2002, but there has never been any suggestion that he has taken cocaine. The BBC was unable to confirm how many complaints it had about the broadcast, saying the figure would not be available until Monday.
Brand, a well-known republican, said she did not write the joke but stood by it. “I didn’t write it. I read it out from the autocue. I thought it was funny. I don’t really understand what the fuss is about,” she said. “I am not going to apologise. I didn’t write it but I did say it so I am culpable in some way.”
Brand’s agent said she had nothing more to add. The programme’s production company, Hat Trick, also declined to comment about the show, which is pre-recorded on Thursday evenings before transmission the following day. Last Friday’s episode was watched by 4.5 million people. A spokesman for Clarence House had no comment.
The BBC did make a mistake, however, in naming the godparent – one of seven – as Hugh van Cutsem. It is actually William van Cutsem, and could refer to either William’s late father, Hugh, or brother, also called Hugh. The BBC declined to comment.
Prince George’s godparents were identified last week when the three-month-old was christened.
John Whittingdale, the Tory chairman of the House of Commons culture, media and sport select committee, said he thought the joke was at the boundary of what was acceptable, but did not go over the edge. “It’s a late night satirical programme and this particular joke is the sort of thing you’d expect,” he said.
“Some people might not like it but I don’t think it goes so far as to breach the broadcasting code. Have I Got News For You has a long tradition of pretty risque jokes and pushing at the limits, and this is another case of that.
“If it’s deeply offensive that’s another matter, but I don’t think it was that bad.”
guardian.co.uk © Guardian News & Media Limited 2010