Opinion

Alistair Stewart Sacked by ITV for Quoting Shakespeare


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Veteran newscaster Alistair Stewart has been sacked by ITN/ITV for quoting a line of Shakespeare on Twitter which one user interpreted to be a racial slur.

ITV parted company with the broadcaster of 40 years service yesterday after it took exception to a complaint made by Twitter user Martin Shapland, who accused Stewart of being racist towards him.

Shapland had engaged with Stewart on the social media service, something which the broadcaster had become renowned for – indeed, I myself have enjoyed many discussions and debates with him on the platform.

The tweet that Stewart had sent to Shapland was a quote from Shakespeare’s play, Measure for Measure (Act II. Scene II.). Stewart tweeted; “But man, proud man, Dress’d in a brief authority, most ignorant of what he’s most assur’d – his glassy essence – like an angry ape plays such fantastic trick before high heaven as makes the angels weep; who, with our spleens, would all themselves laugh mortal. #Shakespeare.”

Now the context here is that at no point was Shakespeare referencing race in the play, and neither was Alistair Stewart in his quoting of it.

The irony of all this, in the context of the argument that Stewart and Shapland were engaged in, the quote from Measure for Measure is all about showing restraint; Isabella is asking Anglo to spare her brother from the death penalty.

The ultimate moral from the passage in the play is that it causes one to lose hope and faith – Stewart in using the quote was clearly saying that he had lost hope and faith in the context of the argument with Shapland.

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What is more disconcerting here, is that actually, it would appear that ITN/ITV have been caught out in what is ageism. My opinion is that bosses at either organisation have been waiting for an opportunity to put Alistair Stewart out to pasture having gone – in their view – past his sell-by date.

There is also the very real interpretation of ITN/ITV’s actions here in that it can be seen, and indeed I view it as both organisations now stating that Shakespeare is racist and that his plays are racist. I expect therefore that ITV won’t be airing anything Shakespeare-related ever again.

ITV are also skating perilously close to being hypocritical. Their very own Piers Morgan is very active on Twitter, and very regularly offends.

One thing is for sure, ITV News is worse off for no longer having Alistair Stewart at the helm of its bulletins. A top class newscaster with very few who can rival his on air enthusiasm and ability, coupled with his passion for the job.

Frankly, I hope that he is meeting with a top employment lawyer this morning with a view to frog-march ITV and ITN – who will doubtlessly blame each other – through the employment tribunal process.  If one’s incorrect interpretation of Shakespeare is enough to end another’s career, then we really are heading in the wrong direction.