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BBC Host "Forced To Leave" After Interview With Anti-Gay Group

BuzzFeed News has learned host Iain Lee was "forced out" of the corporation following a controversial interview.

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BBC Three Counties radio host Iain Lee has left the broadcaster after an apology was issued following an interview with a conservative Christian group that opposes LGBT rights.

Last week, Lee interviewed Libby Powell of Christian Concern and the Christian Legal Centre.

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The interview became testy after they began discussing a prison gardener who told inmates that homosexuals must repent their sexuality to please God and now claims he is being persecuted as a result.

Lee said anti-gay passages in the Bible were "bigotry", which Powell denied. Lee replied: "I guess you don't know what the definition of bigotry is, and considering you are from a legal centre, that is a little bit worrying." He later went on to add: "You have chosen not to question [your views] because you are a bigot."

The BBC subsequently apologised, saying: "The BBC – and Iain Lee himself – wish to apologise for any offence that may have been caused." Yesterday Pink News reported that Lee had left the show.

It is understood the matter was escalated to senior figures in the BBC. BuzzFeed News has been told Lee was subsequently "forced to resign" after the apology was made because significant structural changes were to be made to his show as a result of the complaints.

It's unclear at exactly what level the decision was taken to impose these changes. A BBC spokesperson told BuzzFeed News: "I can confirm ... that in no way were the Director General / BBC Trust involved in any decisions about his future." On the issue of his resignation, they declined to comment further on "this matter or any other individual/contract matters".

A BBC management source told BuzzFeed News the decision was in part likely to have influenced by nervousness over the broadcaster's charter renewal.

The row has caused shock throughout the corporation. Lee, a Sony Award winner, was a popular broadcaster whose show had high listening figures. An online petition has been created to bring him back.

A BBC spokesperson said: "Iain Lee will no longer be presenting his shows on the station but we want to take this opportunity to thank him and wish him well for the future."

BuzzFeed News has contacted Lee's agent but had not received a reply at the time of publication.

Lee confirmed he had left the show via his Twitter account.

He also retweeted a series of supportive messages.

I’m proud of @iainlee for calling out a homophobe and appalled at BBC Three Counties Radio for lacking the balls to support him.

Staff of twelve now running BBC ethics watch group?

Utterly ludicrous situation. Credit to @iainlee for standing up to the homophobic bigots. Shame on the BBC https://t.co/hJa6g5Faw7

The BBC treatment of @IainLee is a disgrace. If I had said what he did and stood up to bigotry @LBC would have praised me, not sacked me.

Alan White is a news editor for BuzzFeed News and is based in London.

Contact Alan White at alan.white@buzzfeed.com.

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