A Tory councillor is being investigated in a racism row after posting a tweet calling BBC presenter and former England footballer Ian Wright “a typical black hypocrite”.
Hampshire Conservative Alexis McEvoy wrote the comment while sharing a Twitter post attacking the pundit over his support for Match of the Day colleague Gary Lineker during the latter’s impartiality row with BBC bosses.
She has since apologised but says she has “suspended herself” pending investigations by local Conservative groups.
In a statement on Monday, Ms McEvoy said: “I am aware that a tweet I sent, and then deleted, has caused offence. I did not mean it to do so and I am deeply sorry.
“I find racism in any form abhorrent, I have therefore reported myself to the monitoring officer” at both councils, Ms McEvoy added.
But Ms McEvoy initially told the local Advertiser & Times that her four-word tweet had been “taken out of context”, saying: “Are we going to talk about all the good things I do for people, whatever colour they are?”
She added: “I’m not stupid; we’ve got the elections coming up and people are looking for an excuse to try and discredit me.”
Ms McEvoy wrote the insult about the football pundit as she shared a post accusing him of a lack of “solidarity” when pundit Matt Le Tissier was let go by Sky Sports following comments he made about the coronavirus pandemic.
Wright was the first of many of Lineker’s colleagues to back him by refusing to appear on Match of the Day on Saturday, after the presenter was told by BBC bosses to “step back” over his criticism of the government’s policy and rhetoric on asylum-seekers.
BBC football programming was plunged into crisis on Saturday, with several programmes pulled from air as presenters, pundits and commentators withdrew their labour en masse in support of Lineker, who was reinstated on Monday.
In emailed remarks to The Independent on Tuesday, Ms McEvoy said: “In the Twitter feed I was following … Ian Wright had felt the need to call Matt Le Tissier and his colleagues ‘middle-aged white guys’.
“That was the comment to which I was responding. I was not intending my tweet to be construed as racist.”
The leader of New Forest Liberal Democrats, Malcolm Wade, is reported to have written to Tory leader Jill Cleary urging her to take “robust” disciplinary action – warning that Ms McEvoy’s post “encourages division and racism”.
“Not only has this posting outraged a number of people who read it, including other council members, consider the impact on members of the public, including the black and Asian communities in our area, upon reading this from a longstanding council member,” Mr Wade said.
The post shared by Ms McEvoy included a small snippet from footage posted by Wright in August 2020, in which he condemned claims that Sky’s decision to sack three of their Soccer Saturday pundits was made in order to add more black and female presenters.
Ian Wright condemns ‘racially-driven’ abuse towards black pundits after Sky Sports sackings
“The racism is going through the roof today,” Wright said in the video, adding: “What does Micah Richards, Alex Scott, Sol Campbell, Clinton Morrison or any other black pundit have to do with Sky’s decision to get rid of these guys?
“All because what, three middle-aged white guys got the sack? I kiss my teeth … What have these guys done? Because a black person or a woman might get the opportunity to do this job? … Why are people upset?”
New Forest District Council told The Independent it “opposes all forms of discrimination, harassment and victimisation and takes its responsibilities very seriously to eliminate all such conduct when carrying out its functions and delivering services to our local community”.
Tory leader Ms Cleary said: “Following receipt of a number of complaints regarding a social media post made (and then deleted) by Councillor Alexis McEvoy on her personal social media account, Councillor McEvoy is suspended from the District Council’s Conservative Group pending investigation.”