The studio director of RT UK has been disciplined by the Russian broadcaster after he repeatedly made the most shocking Islamophobic comments on social media.
According to BuzzFeed News, Andrew Rigney said Islam was “rotten from the inside,” retweeted an image suggesting Muslims are inclined to shoot their own daughters, and shared an image saying “there is no difference between the Nazis and Islam.”
Rigney also said he wanted to “punch out” the face of London mayor Sadiq Khan, and implied Khan had approved the construction of a new cycle superhighway partly to give money to his “rich Muslim mates.”
RT UK employs more than a dozen Muslim staff and 5Pillars understands that they, and others, are concerned that the channel’s politics have become more right-wing over the past year during which the EU migrant crisis, Brexit and the election of Donald Trump have predominated.
We also understand that some were concerned the channel was considering hiring the Islamophobe Katie Hopkins to present her own show.
Staff have tried to raise these issues internally, sources say, without success.
However, in a statement yesterday the channel said management was unaware of Mr Rigney’s posts until other employees reported them, and were appalled by what they discovered.
Subscribe to our newsletter and stay updated on the latest news and updates from around the Muslim world!
Nikolay Bogachihin, head of RT UK, wrote: “Once RT management was made aware of Mr Rigney’s posts, we commenced formal disciplinary proceedings, in consultation with our lawyers, which resulted in the issue of a formal reprimand, placing him on probation.
“Mr. Rigney was told in no uncertain terms that his behavior was unacceptable, that it created a hostile environment not just for RT UK’s Muslim staff, of which there are more than a dozen, but also for our entire incredibly diverse and open-minded team. He was also directed to delete his statements and social media accounts.
“Mr Rigney accepted full responsibility for his actions and the harm they caused. On his own initiative, he has approached every single Muslim colleague and apologized in person. This was two months ago.
“RT UK is committed to providing a healthy, tolerant and respectful working environment for every member of our team. We want our colleagues to know that whatever their concerns, they will always be heard. In 11 years of RT operations in the UK, first as a bureau and then as a full-fledged channel, this has been the first and only incident of its kind.”
However, Bogachihin accused BuzzFeed of misrepresenting the culture at the channel and said that Rigney has no role over editorial content.
“BuzzFeed’s article seeks to grossly misrepresent the culture, atmosphere, management and editorial policy of RT UK. We would like to make clear that RT UK, and RT as a whole, does not tolerate hate speech or bigotry of any kind…
“BuzzFeed decided to sensationalize this incident and, in chasing a desired narrative about RT UK, try to link it to false assertions about the channel’s politics and supposed editorial ‘shift to the right.’
“RT is not in the business of politics, but of news. We report on stories and give platform to voices that are overlooked by other media, regardless of where they fall on the political spectrum. This means talking – and listening – to Nigel Farage and Jeremy Corbyn, Leave and Remain, UKIP and Labor – and plenty of Tories, too.”