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Greg James apologises for ableist remark

Greg James

BBC Radio 1 Breakfast Show host Greg James and former newsreader Chris Smith have issued an apology after they made a controversial ableist comment about a Roald Dahl character with a glass eye.

In a video promoting their new book The Twits Next Door, commissioned by the Roald Dahl Story Company, the pair discussed ways to make the famous characters even ‘more disgusting’.

During the clip illustrator Emily Jones suggests Mr and Mrs Twits having glass eyes, to which Smith replies: “That’s it. What a disgusting pair of Twits!”

The comment caused uproar on social media with people slandering the presenters for being ableist.

Following the backlash James and Smith have apologised for the remark saying it was “absolutely not our intention” to cause any upset.

“We are so sorry to have caused offence with the launch video. It was absolutely not our intention. And we apologise unreservedly. It’s now gone,” James published on X.

“We understand that words matter and we pride ourselves on championing and welcoming everyone into the magical world of children’s books. We would never dream of deliberately setting out to exclude anyone.

“With the glass eye comment, we were attempting to pay homage to one of the Twit’s most famous pranks involving a glass of beer in order to remind people of Dahl’s infamous terrible two. It’s in no way a suggestion that this forms any part of the plot of the new story nor was it our intention to suggest that it was in any way disgusting.

“It’s unfortunate that the word disgusting appears to be a direct comment on that. That’s an error on our part. We are devastated that it’s come across like this but completely understand why there is anger. And we appreciate everyone rightly calling it out.

He continued: “We hear that fully, we’re so upset that we made a mistake but we’re still incredibly proud of this book and we’re excited to get out there and share it with young readers all over the world.”

The presenters’ comments have been criticised by a number of charities, including the Royal National Institute of Blind People, who encouraged the pair to “talk to us about encouraging acceptance and understanding of disabilities.

“When there’s positive representation of disabilities in children’s books, children with disabilities feel seen and heard, and their friends and classmates treat everyone the same.

“There is nothing at all revolting about prosthetic eyes, we think they’re brilliant.”

A spokesperson from Scope said:  “Positive disability representation in kid’s books help improve attitudes and inclusion. So what can we expect of negative representation like this?”

In a video post, the charity added: “Greg and Chris, we know you can do better. The disabled community wants to help you get there.”

Last year publisher Puffin edited and removed language from Dahl’s books, such as the terms “fat” and “ugly” so the classic stories  “can continue to be enjoyed by all today”. 

[ The Twits Next Door by Greg James and Chris Smith will be published by Penguin will be on sale from August. ]

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