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Balding lodges complaint with PCC over 'dyke' comment

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BBC Sport presenter Claire Balding has lodged a complaint with the Press Complaints Commission (PCC) about a review of her new show 'Britain by Bike' by Sunday Times TV critic AA Gill, in which Gill wrote:

"Some time ago, I made a cheap and frankly unnecessary joke about Clare Balding looking like a big lesbian. And afterwards somebody tugged my sleeve to point out that she is a big lesbian, and I felt foolish and guilty. So I'd like to take this opportunity to apologise. Sorry. Now back to the dyke on a bike, puffing up the nooks and crannies at the bottom end of the nation."

Furious, Balding lodged a complaint with Sunday Times editor John Witherow, but his response, copied below, "appalled" her:

"In my view some members of the gay community need to stop regarding themselves as having a special victim status and behave like any other sensible group that is accepted by society.

"Not having a privileged status means, of course, one must accept occasionally being the butt of jokes. A person's sexuality should not give them a protected status.

"Jeremy Clarkson, perhaps the epitome of the heterosexual male, is constantly jeered at for his dress sense (lack of), adolescent mind-set and hair style. He puts up with it as a presenter's lot and in this context I hardly think that AA Gill's remarks were particularly 'cruel', especially as he ended by so warmly endorsing you as a presenter."

To which Balding responded:

"What, so it's OK that he beat me up because he's nice about me at the end? For God's sake, would he seriously review Stephen Fry presenting QI as a 'faggot' or Evan Davis on Dragons Den as a 'queer'? And if he did, would the editor compare that to someone having a go at Jeremy Clarkson for his dress sense?

"When the day comes that people stop resigning from high office, being disowned by their families, getting beaten up and in some instances committing suicide because of their sexuality, you may have a point.

"This is not about me putting up with having the piss taken out of me, something I have been quite able to withstand, it is about you legitimising name calling.

"I am happy to be described as a lesbian, as and when relevant, but 'dyke' is too often used as a pejorative and insulting term."

"'Dyke' is not shouted out in school playgrounds (or as I've had it at an airport) as a compliment, believe me.

"It may be your job to defend your writer and your editorial team but if you really think that homophobia does not exist and was not demonstrated beyond being 'the butt of a joke' then we have a problem."

A spokesman for the PCC confirmed that a complaint has been received from Balding under clause 12 (discrimination) of the editors' code of practice, and would be considered by the commission.

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