I’m ‘hardly like a racist’ says Sammy Wilson

Sammy Wilson at a 'Leave the EU' event.
Sammy Wilson at a 'Leave the EU' event.

Sammy Wilson has accused the BBC of ‘deliberately editing’ a conversation in which he appeared to agree with a call to “get the ethnics out.”

The incident occurred during filming in Carrickfergus of a BBC Spotlight programme about the European Union referendum.

Sammy Wilson MP

Sammy Wilson MP

As part of the programme, the East Antrim MP approached members of the public to ask whether they wanted to stay in or leave the EU.

During one conversation with a man, Mr Wilson was out of the earshot of BBC reporter Conor Spackman, but was still being recorded.

According to Mr Spackman, Mr Wilson said: “They are doing a programme on the BBC about should we stay in the European Union or get out of it, so I am going around talking to people and then they are going to do an interview with me.”

The man replied: “I’d say get out of it. Between you and me get the ethnics out too.”

Mr Wilson then said: “You are absolutely right, you know.”

On Tuesday, Mr Wilson accused the BBC of “bias” and of attempting to stir up controversy.

“I am miffed that just because they wanted to inject a bit of controversy the BBC have twisted this the way they have,” he told the Times.

“I asked this man should we stay in the EU or get out, and my response was quite clearly a response to him saying he wanted to get out of the EU.

“They didn’t play my question, they only played his response.

“They deliberately edited the context.

“If they had got the context in, people would have understood.”

Mr Wilson claims that during filming he was asked for his views on immigration, but that his remarks were left out.

“I made it quite clear that we would always have a level of immigration and I believe immigration is essential, but rather than have the EU dictating it we should decide how many people we want coming in,” he continued.

“I have supported ethnic minorities when they need support, but I believe we have to have control over immigration and I believe we should get out of the EU.

“Uncontrolled immigration causes all kinds of problems such as pressure on public services.

“I am on record that I have said immigration is an essential thing, many of our firms could not survive without it, but they didn’t play that.”

Mr Wilson said that Polish consul Jerome Mullen’s allegation to the BBC that he had agreed with “racist” comments was “deeply personally offensive”.

“On a personal level this really annoys me as I am the only non-Chinese person on the Chinese Chamber of Commerce, and I was put on it due to the work I have done on their behalf,” he said.

“I have lots of friends from other ethnicities, including people from the Polish community who took me out to see Mrs Brown’s Boys in the Odyssey.

“That’s hardly like a racist.

“There are people from other countries who live in Northern Ireland who I have a lot of respect for, and who I believe have a lot of respect for me.”

BBC Spotlight reporter Conor Spackman says he subsequently wrote to Mr Wilson asking him what he meant by appearing to agree with the statement: “Get the ethnics out too.”

Mr Wilson told the Times he had responded to the BBC by asking: “Are you having a laugh?,” as he “didn’t think they were serious”.

“It’s the BBC who owe an apology, not me,” he added.

“This is typical of the politics of the BBC. They are anti-DUP and pro-Europe, they wanted to get a controversy going .

“I’m going to look at the Independent Press Standards Organisation (IPSO) and see if they feel there is any justification in making a complaint.”

A DUP spokesman said: “The DUP values everyone who comes to Northern Ireland and makes a contribution to our society. Ethnic minorities are vital to our biggest and best companies, never mind our health service.

“‘Get the ethnics out’ is a disgraceful phrase. We disassociate the party from the comment made by a member of the public.

“Whilst there needs to be a discussion about how we control our borders, this should be conducted in a factual and respectful manner as part of the EU referendum debates,” said the party spokesman.

A BBC spokesperson commented: “The BBC has reported the exchange fairly and in context. Spotlight sent an accurate transcription of the exchange to Mr Wilson and gave him ample opportunity to explain what he meant in the exchange with a member of the public. We will reflect any further response from Mr Wilson in tonight’s programme.

“Mr Wilson’s comments on immigration are reflected accurately in the programme, due to be broadcast at 10.45 on BBC One tonight. However, this particular exchange with a member of the public appeared different from other conversations Mr Wilson had had about immigration. We therefore sought specific explanation.”