Conservative commentator Darren Grimes is being investigated by police on suspicion of “stirring up racial hatred” because of something that his podcast guest, historian David Starkey, said in an interview.
According to the Telegraph:
Mr Grimes, a conservative commentator, has been asked to attend a police station to be interviewed under caution after publishing a podcast in which Dr Starkey said slavery was not genocide because there are “so many damn blacks”.
It has been warned that the investigation, by the Metropolitan Police, will have a “chilling effect” on free speech, while Mr Grimes has described it as an “abuse of taxpayers money”.
Mr Grimes is accused of a public order offence of stirring up racial hatred by publishing the interview on his podcast on July 2, The Telegraph can reveal. He has since apologised, while Dr Starkey’s career lies in ruins, with the historian set to lose all his academic titles and book deals.
Grimes, a former Brexit campaigner who is no stranger to run-ins with the State, defended himself in a statement, saying: “At a time when many in our country are facing uncertainty and financial hardship, I cannot imagine a more contemptible way for the Metropolitan Police to abuse taxpayers’ money and the trust of citizens then by investigating this vexatious claim.”
But the police action has caused widespread dismay among journalists and free speech advocates who consider the attempted prosecution to be politically motivated, such as actor Laurence Fox:
Why don’t you go and investigate an actual crime? Do something about the 10 year knife crime high maybe? No one gave you consent to police our thoughts. We give you consent to police criminal activity. FFS @darrengrimes_ @metpoliceuk https://t.co/r23Y9bg2Jp
— Laurence Fox (@LozzaFox) October 9, 2020
Among the other comments on Twitter:
If interviewing controversial idiots is a crime, then the @MetPoliceUKwould have their work cut out — eg with Louis Theroux and the BBC. But, of course, it isn’t. They are wasting their own time, and precious resources, on another crusade of wokeness
This is arresting a journalist for asking questions… it is very sinister… it cannot be right what is happening inside the Met?
Isn’t it amazing how Darren Grimes can be investigated for something someone ELSE said, but [Cambridge professor] Priyamvada Gopal ISN’T investigated for saying “white lives don’t matter” & she wants to “kneecap white [men]”.
Toby Young, founder of the Free Speech Union, asked: “Are journalists now going to be arrested because of things their interviewees said?”
The @metpoliceuk are threatening to arrest @darrengrimes_ over his interview with David Starkey, accusing him of “stirring up racial hatred”. Are journalists now going to arrested because of things their interviewees said? https://t.co/YVtvoz10Cu https://t.co/YVtvoz10Cu
— Toby Young (@toadmeister) October 9, 2020
I really want to know the logic behind reporting Darren Grimes to the police, because I would imagine it has profound implications for all broadcasting. And the Met must know that, too.
— Tim Stanley (@timothy_stanley) October 9, 2020
Starkey, one of Britain’s pre-eminent historians, was effectively cancelled as a result of the interview. Even though he apologised “unreservedly” for his “deplorably inflammatory” words, and even though it was fairly clear from the tone and context that Starkey was merely trying to emphasise a point rather than to cast racist aspersions on black people, his career was destroyed: he lost his academic posts, his publisher, and “every distinction and honour acquired in a long career.”
But why Grimes should be under threat of prosecution for something his podcast guest said remains a mystery.
As Toby Young told the Telegraph:
“In a free and democratic society, it is paramount that journalists and broadcasters are permitted to interview a wide range of people, including those likely to make controversial remarks.
“Threatening them with arrest if their interviewees say something offensive will have a chilling effect on free speech, which is the lifeblood of democracy.”