Graham Norton: When I found out how much the Telegraph paid Boris Johnson, I just thought, No
Chatshow host says ‘Boris Johnson mouthpiece’ newspaper made him feel nauseous
Graham Norton: ’When I found out how much the Telegraph paid Boris Johnson... To do a weekly column he’s paid, like, £250,000 a year. So I just thought, No’. Photograph: Christopher Baines/BBC
Graham Norton has said he stopped writing for the Daily Telegraph because its recent “toxic” political stances increasingly made him feel “nauseous”.
The BBC presenter, whose Friday-night chatshow has just begun a new series, wrote the newspaper’s advice column for 12 years before stepping down without explanation at the end of 2018. Norton now says he decided to leave after the Telegraph defended the likes of Brett Kavanaugh after his nomination to the United States supreme court and published articles by the future prime minister Boris Johnson containing falsehoods.
Norton says: “When I signed up to be their agony aunt, I was aware that it was a right-wing paper, and that didn’t bother me, but about a year before I left it took a turn, and there were some things in that paper about which I thought, ‘I cannot be contained within the same pages as this.’
“There was a piece defending Brett Kavanaugh and things President Trump had said about [Kavanaugh’s] accuser, and I just thought, This is toxic. And I loved that job – I absolutely adored doing it – but ultimately I didn’t love it enough to be part of that stable.
“I just had to step away, which saddened me, but I was beginning to feel a bit nauseous. It’s a weird thing: these very nice people would say, ‘Oh, I love your column in the Telegraph,’ and I’m looking at them thinking, You read the Telegraph? That’s not good; that’s not a happy situation to be in.”
He says he didn’t explain to the newspaper at the time his reasons for leaving but now wants to clarify the decision.
Boris Johnson wrote an article where one of his solutions to the Irish problem was to build a bridge between Northern Ireland and mainland Britain. How is he allowed to publish an article in a newspaper suggesting it was possible?
Norton claims the Telegraph’s standards were substantially below those of US newspapers. “Another awful thing is the fact they were such a mouthpiece for Boris Johnson, with no fact-checking at all. He wrote an article where one of his solutions to the Irish problem was to build a bridge between Northern Ireland and mainland Britain, and you only need to talk to one engineer to find out that’s it’s not possible: the depth of the ocean, the weather conditions; you cannot do that. So how is he allowed to publish an article in a newspaper suggesting it was possible?
“In America you couldn’t do that. The New York Times or the Washington Post, if they get caught out there’s hell to pay. When I do an interview with an American newspaper I get all these follow-up calls, asking, ‘Did you say this?’ and ‘Can you just verify the spelling of the surname of the person you mentioned?’ They’re really on it in the way that, no disrespect, we’re not on it here. And when I found out how much they paid him... To do a weekly column he’s paid, like, £250,000 a year. So I just thought, No.”
Norton said he was restrained in his political opinions because of his BBC job. “Other people who work for the BBC are very political, but I don’t feel comfortable doing that. I think when you work for the BBC you’re in a slightly different position. Having said that, I do vote and have opinions. I’m not on marches. You wouldn’t have to be a rocket scientist to figure out who I vote for, but I don’t say who I vote for.”
A spokesperson for the Telegraph says: “Graham’s weekly column was widely enjoyed by our readers, and we wish him all the very best with his future plans.”
The Telegraph has since found a replacement for Norton as its agony aunt: Richard Madeley. – Guardian