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Match of the Day presenter Gary Lineker and BBC director-general Tim Davie© Provided by The i

BBC boss Tim Davie is facing a “test of leadership” after Gary Lineker appeared to endorse a claim that Israel has committed “genocide” in Gaza, insiders said.

BBC staff expressed anger after the BBC’s highest-paid star shared an interview with academic Raz Segal, who said of Israel’s actions in Gaza: “What we’re seeing in front of our eyes is a ‘textbook case’ of genocide.” 

Lineker told his 8.7 million followers on Twitter/X that the full video was “worth 13 minutes of anyone’s time”.

A BBC newsroom source said: “It’s an inflammatory video for someone of Gary’s prominence to share at a time when Jewish people are feeling threatened.”

A senior news insider said: “This is now a test of leadership for Tim (Davie, director-general). Gary believes he can say whatever he wants because the executives are too weak to rein him in.”

Another senior journalist said: “It’s frustrating for the rest of us and incredibly unhelpful for Tim Davie. He should be told to cut it out.”

The issue could be raised at next month’s BBC Board meeting, due to be attended by Davie, understands.

It comes as bosses are believed to be discussing an extension of Lineker’s £1.35m Match of the Day deal, with the broadcaster set to secure Premiership highlights for a further four years.

 

Lineker, briefly suspended over a tweet likening the Government’s language around asylum seekers to 30s Germany, which the BBC said breached impartiality rules, believes he has done nothing wrong.

Under new social media rules, he is allowed to tweet political opinions, provided he does not attack political parties and respects “standards of civility in public discourse.”

However, the rules also require BBC figures to “take particular care when commenting on the issues that provoke the greatest debate.”

An ally of Lineker’s said the presenter was preparing for Saturday’s Match of the Day as usual.

He does not expect any further discussion within the BBC over the post, since he believes it was within the impartiality guidelines.

Whilst Lineker’s freelancing on current affairs annoys BBC journalists who operate under stringent impartiality rules, he is still seen as an important asset by executives. 

Barbara Slater, the BBC’s director of sport, this week told MPs: “Gary knows the guidelines… we love Gary and Gary loves the BBC.”

Lineker shared an interview with Israeli-American historian Segal, originally posted by Guardian columnist Owen Jones.

Segal criticised senior Israelis who have likened the Hamas attacks on October 7, in which more than 1,200 people were killed, to the Holocaust.

He set out what constituted genocide according to a United Nations definition, and said he believed Israel’s actions matched that definition.

Stephen Pollard, editor-at-large of The Jewish Chronicle, accused Lineker of showing “universe-bending ignorance.”

He wrote: “Lineker said not a word when 1,200 Jews were murdered by Hamas, when women were raped, babies burned and some 240 hostages taken.”

The BBC has rejected complaints over a Lineker post on November 3 which read: “Marching and calling for a ceasefire and peace so that more innocent children don’t get killed is not really the definition of a hate march.” 

Presenters are “free to express opinions about the issues that matter to them”, including issues of public debate, the BBC said.

The BBC declined to comment on Lineker’s latest post or say whether any action will follow. Representatives of Lineker were approached for comment.  By Adam Sherwin, The I

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