Desert Island Discs: Mastermind host Clive Myrie reveals racial abuse and death threats on Radio 4 appearance

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A journalist, newsreader and presenter for the BBC, Clive Myrie’s career has gone from strength to strength - but the hatred and abuse he’s received has upped too.

Mastermind host Clive Myrie has now spoken out about being on the receiving end of racial abuse, including shocking death threats which detailed which kind of bullet a man wanted to use to shoot him.

The British broadcaster is this week’s guest on BBC Radio 4’s Desert Island Discs with Lauren Laverne. The show, which has been on the air since 1942, asks celebrity ‘castaways’ to choose eight audio recordings that serve as a musical memoir of their lives, which they would take with them if they were stranded on the titular desert island.

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But 59-year-old Myrie has used the opportunity to share some of the racial abuse and hate speech he has faced, since he became a more prominent presenter. He is set to co-host the BBC’s election night coverage alongside Sunday presenter Laura Kuenssberg, taking over from Huw Edwards - who resigned from the BBC earlier this year after allegations that he paid a young person for sexually explicit photos.

He told Laverne that he had been sent faeces and “cards in the post with gorillas on”, as well as emails which said: “You shouldn’t be on our TV; you dress like a pimp”. “But one chap issued death threats, and he was tracked down and prosecuted, and his death threats involved talking about the kind of bullet that he’d use in the gun to kill me and this kind of stuff,” Myrie said.

Journalist Clive Myrie is this week's Desert Island Discs guest (Photo: Ian West/PA Wire)Journalist Clive Myrie is this week's Desert Island Discs guest (Photo: Ian West/PA Wire)
Journalist Clive Myrie is this week's Desert Island Discs guest (Photo: Ian West/PA Wire) | Ian West/PA Wire

“I was shaken for a while after I’d been told. I thought it’s just someone showboating. It’s just bravado,” he continued. “And then they tracked down this character, and it turned out that he had previous convictions for firearms offences. So [I] thought, ‘oh my God, what, if anything, might this person have been planning?’.”

Born in Bolton, Myrie studied law at the University of Sussex before gaining a place on the BBC’s journalism trainee scheme in 1988. But he said on Desert Island Discs that he “didn’t want to be seen as a black journalist”. He added: “I wanted to be a journalist who just happens to be black. I didn’t want the BBC to fall into lazy thinking, which was so easy at the time… I didn’t want my colour to define who I am, and the BBC understood that.”

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Myrie, the son of Windrush generation parents from Jamaica, also spoke about how the scandal had affected his family. In 2017, it began to emerge that hundreds of Commonwealth citizens, many of whom were from the Windrush generation, had been wrongly detained, deported and denied legal rights, PA reports. It saw many British citizens, mainly from the Caribbean, denied access to healthcare and benefits and threatened with deportation despite having the right to live in the UK.

His brother Lionel “now has the right to remain here”, he said, but his other brother Peter died from prostate cancer before the situation was sorted. Becoming emotional, Myrie told Laverne: “Peter died before he got his stuff, and it’s just dreadful. He wanted to take his daughter to Jamaica, so that she could see her parents’ homeland and he couldn’t do that, he died of prostate cancer. There are still people who have received their compensation. It’s just very, very sad.”

Myrie also spoke of his excitement of co-hosting the BBC’s election night coverage for the first time. “(It is) a lot of pressure... I’ve never presented an election programme in the UK before. I’m getting my head around a lot of statistics.

“But you know, we want to try and make it fun too; it is not just going to be a night for geeks. I hope it’s not just a night for political geeks,” he added. “I want people to be able to tune in and get a sense of where this country is going and the buzz of being on the front line. This is the front line of what it means to be British regarding the elections.”

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Myrie is not the only high profile British celebrity to reveal their struggle with racial abuse in recent days, with Gardeners’ World presenter Arit Anderson recently posting on social media about being called a slur while competing in a triathlon for charity.

Desert Island Discs airs on BBC Radio 4 at 10am on Sunday, 15 June 2024, with repeats available on BBC Sounds.

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