Lord Sugar has always been recognised as an active and controversial character in the world of Twitter. Piers Morgan referred to him as a ‘Halfwit’ when he fell for a fake Trump tweet. He posted a picture of Jeremy Corbyn sat next to Adolf Hitler. He has been in a Twitter war with Donald Trump. Some find his tweets humorous. The issue becomes when tweets cross lines and why some people do not face the same consequences that befall others.
Lord Sugar became involved in the recent World Cup frenzy this year posting “I recognise some of these guys from the beach in Marbella…multi-tasking resourceful chaps” in respect of the Senegal national football team. Twitter users quickly branded his tweet “racist” with tweets such as “This entire joke revolves around you making the stereotype based on the colour of somebody’s skin,” and “you’re fired pal.” Interestingly enough if you were an employee making such jokes, you would be just that… fired, handed your P45 and swiftly marched out the door. Notwithstanding the fact that you could be held jointly and severally liable with your employers if another employee made a claim for emotional damages.
Nevertheless Lord Sugar quickly jumped to the defence of his tweet stating he thought it was “funny.” Unfortunately at this point Lord Sugar became offensive. A few verified users retweeted his tweet stating he was being racist. BBC World News Presenter Babita Sharma retweeted the controversial post, stating “ A shocking, vile tweet that you take a screen grab of because you know it will soon be deleted.” Lord Sugar replied, “If it is so vile why have you retweeted it. You make me sick.” Before deleting his tweet, Lord Sugar also responded to several messages from Twitter users criticising him and thought blocking them was the best way to proceed. Around twenty minutes later he deleted these tweets including the main one in question. Not only did Lord Sugar apologise via twitter for his behaviour, the BBC also accepted his apology appearing to try to draw a line under the whole affair.
Babita Sharma also received a personal email from Lord Sugar but it was one that was privately emailed to her and was not put out in the public domain. Can this be classed as an apology?
Ndongo Ndiaye, advisor on youth and sport to president Macky Sall, told the The Times Lord Sugar’s comment had been “ignorant and hurtful… I think it is very ignorant from someone in his position. Of course, there must be freedom of speech but this was wrong and it is hurtful to the players and people from Senegal. If I was his boss…I would fire him.”
Dawn Butler MP advised she would be writing to the House of Lords Commissioner for Standards and the BBC calling for an immediate investigation… Racism has no place in Parliament or society. Swift action must be taken.” According to Twttier’s own policy, if you are deemed to be racist then the social media site will strip you of the verification of your twitter handle. Yet Lord Sugar posted on 20th June 2018 and still continues to post.
ABC in America cancelled comedian Roseanne Barr’s show when she likened an African American former Obama aide to an ape. She had the audacity to blame her tweet on sleeping pills. ABC advised her tweet was “abhorrent, repugnant and inconsistent with our values and we have decided to cancel her show.” Yet the BBC has not cancelled The Apprentice as of yet.
Blog by Neha Sood, Solicitor