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7 February 2019

LISTEN: England’s chief medical officer accuses Nick Robinson of sexism on-air

“Would you say that to a male chief medical officer?”

By Media Mole

On Radio 4’s Today programme this morning, England’s chief medical officer Sally Davies came on to discuss new guidelines for screen time and technology use.

While the chief medical officers drawing up this official advice refused to recommend a time limit for want of evidence, they do encourage activities that are known to contribute to our health – like to “get up and move”, as Davies put it to the presenter Nick Robinson.

But what happens when a lady scientist starts nagging us about how to live our lives, lads? WE CRY “NANNY!” Which is exactly what Robinson did.

“You always have this question, so I know you’re familiar with it,” he said, with no accompanying self-awareness about why, then, he was asking it. “But this balance you have to get between nannying on the one hand, or being accused of it, at least, and on the other hand, sort of banality, stating things that are obvious.”

“I thought you were going to be sexist,” Davies responded.

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“What bit of that is sexist?” asked Robinson.

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“I wonder whether you’d say to a male chief medical officer…”

“No no, I said you are often accused of being a nanny, I didn’t say I accused you of being a nanny, you are often said, are you not?” he said, helpfully drawing listeners’ attention to the straw sexist so often evoked on the Today programme.

“Ah,” replied Davies sarcastically. “Clever.”

Your mole is really enjoying this recent trend of female interviewees on the programme calling out sexism live on air. The deputy Lib Dem leader and former minister Jo Swinson MP confronted John Humphrys about his mockery of the BBC’s equal pay row last February:

“Just while I’ve got you here, John, can I just ask have you apologised to Carrie Gracie for the remarks that you made about equal pay?”

Humphrys replied that he had emailed Gracie, and harrumphed: “Quite what this has to do with what we’re discussing here I fail to see but there we are. That has answered your question.” Before ending the interview, he again called her question “irrelevant”.

Listen here, from 1hr 38mins.