According to the BBC profile on Sacks, he is “Chief Rabbi of Britain and the United Hebrew Congregations of the Commonwealth. He is the spiritual head of the largest grouping of Orthodox Jewish communities in the UK.”
The question came during his Nov. 16 appearance on BBC Radio 4 Today. Sacks was on the “Thought for the Day section,” the Evening Standard reported. The BBC’s Podcasts & Downloads section of the site identifies that part of the program as
“A unique reflection from a faith perspective on topical issues and news events. Speakers from across the world’s major faiths offer a spiritual insight rooted in the theology of their own tradition. This brief, uninterrupted interlude has the capacity to plant a seed of thought that stays with listeners during the day.”
According to the BBC, Sacks initially responded that “I think it’s got to do with Iran, actually,” before being told his comments were live. Then he said he wanted a “prayer for peace.” The Guardian noted that Sacks’ “tone changed markedly” when told about the program being live.
The BBC also posted a statement from an unidentified spokesperson calling the question “inappropriate.” The statement reads:
“The Chief Rabbi hadn’t realised he was still on-air and as soon as this became apparent, we interjected.
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“Evan likes to be spontaneous with guests but he accepts that in this case it was inappropriate and he has apologised to Lord Sacks. The BBC would reiterate that apology.”
Sacks’ “Thought for the Day” is posted on the BBC’s website but the audio doesn’t include the Gaza question or comments.
Last week, the BBC apologized to Lord Alistair McAlpine and announced a settlement of “185,000 pounds ($293,000) plus costs” after McAlpine threatened a lawsuit for the BBC’s report suggesting — but not naming — he sexually abused someone. On Nov. 10, BBC director-general George Entwistle resigned in light of the report, which he called “so fundamentally wrong” and “completely unacceptable.”
iMediaEthics also wrote this month about the BBC Trust’s Oct. 30 report that a February tweet from the BBC was inaccurate.
iMediaEthics has written to Sacks asking for confirmation the BBC apologized directly and asking if he is satisfied with the BBC apology. We’ll update with any response.
Hat Tip: Guardian