Good Morning Britain and ITV News’ Ranvir Singh has shared her “upset” over the “unsettling” departure of colleague and friend Alastair Stewart.
Alastair confirmed he had stepped down from ITN after 40 years of broadcasting on Wednesday, with ITV releasing a statement.
He commented, after removing his Twitter account, that “it was a misjudgement” that led to his mutually agreed exit from the channel.
Since then, claims have emerged that his decision to leave came after he was accused of calling a black man an “ape” on Twitter just weeks ago.
Ranvir appeared on GMB on Thursday morning to speak out over the decision, confessing she “felt sorry” for her good friend.
Paying tribute to him following the decision, she told hosts Susanna Reid and Ben Shephard that she “would never use the word racist in the same sentence” as his name.
She went on to say how Alastair encouraged diversity on the channel, and how “upset” she was about the ongoing situation.
Ranvir said: “I text him last night to see if he was okay, he said he was okay, so I’ll ring him in a couple of days. I feel really upset about it.”
She added: “All I can say is that I would never use the word racist and his name in the same sentence. I have sat with him for hours and hours, days and days, years, and he has only ever been gracious and encouraging to me, we’ve had talks about how he and his wife are proud of what I’ve achieved.”
“Alastair’s talked about other black talents in the newsroom and wider, and why companies don’t give them more work, and how he sees black talent in other places and he wants them to have more work, and he would know in his position that might mean he might get less work but he still was saying, ‘listen’.”
Ranvir continued: “I can only tell you from my own experience, that he is a gentleman and has done nothing other than totally encourage me so it saddens me.”
Ben asked her to consider why the Twitter user may have taken offence to the comment, with Ranvir repeating her support for Alastair.
“I find it really unsettling to talk about this, he’s my friend Alastair is. I feel sorry for him and I wish this hadn’t happened, and I don’t know who this guy is on Twitter and what his issue is with that and I feel sorry for Alastair.
“In my gut I would absolutely tell you, I’d put my house on it, not for one second did he write that quote thinking in anyway it was slur on someone’s skin colour.”
Stewart and Twitter user Martin Shapland were involved in a heated debate on social media over the financial relationship between the tax payer and the Crown earlier this month. The newsreader responded at one point with a quote from Shakespeare’s Measure for Measure.
Stewart wrote: “But man, proud man, Dress’d in a little brief authority Most ignorant of what he’s most assur’d – His glassy essence—like an angry ape Plays such fantastic tricks before high heaven.
“As makes the angels weep; who, with our spleens, Would all themselves laugh mortal.”
Shapland retweeted the comment and branded Stewart a “disgrace”, writing: “Just an ITV newsreader referring to me as an ape with the cover of Shakespeare. Measure for measure, Alistair is a disgrace.”
ITN have not confirmed that the tweets are linked to Stewart stepping down from ITV News.
An ITN spokesperson told the Mirror: “After many years working across a variety of news programmes, Alastair Stewart is stepping down from his presenting duties.
“The decision, which is supported by both ITV and ITN, follows errors of judgement in Alastair’s use of social media which breached ITN’s editorial guidelines.
“Alastair has had a long career as a staff reporter and presenter on ITV News programmes. In recent times he has been a part time freelance presenter mainly on the lunchtime news and weekend programmes.”
Good Morning Britain continues weekdays at 6am on ITV.