Radio 4’s Today programme host John Humphrys said his equal pay “jokes” were recorded without his knowledge, days after he made a grovelling apology.

Mr Humphrys was recorded ahead of a show with North America news editor Jon Sopel about Carrie Gracie walking out of her job at the BBC over the gender pay gap row in which women are paid less than males in many areas of the BBC. 

MPs including the SNP’s Andrew MacNeil and journalists fumed over the blasé remarks.

Yet, Mr Humphrys himself deflected the blame.

He said: “This is not something that’s going to dominate my existence. As far as I’m concerned, it’s over and done with.

“If one could relive the last few days, I probably would not have done the same chat with Sopel. Or would I? Perhaps. It was just silly banter.”

“Some nasty person decided that the world was entitled to hear it, and that one is not entitled to have private conversations.”

The conversation was recorded last week, ahead of the show.

The presenter joked: “Slight change of subject: the first question will be how much of your salary you are prepared to hand over to Carrie Gracie to keep her, and then a few comments about your other colleagues – you know, like our Middle East editor [Jeremy Bowen] and the other men who are earning too much…”

He also mocked Ms Gracie’s attempt to bring equality to the Beeb while later saying his own bumper pay packet was “just”.

Mr Humphrys said: “Oh, dear God. She’s actually suggested that you should lose money.”

The 74-year-old who earns £600,000-649,999 per year has shown no remorse, despite an earlier apology.

Mr Humphrys told the Telegraph: “The thing I didn’t know is that there is a relatively new thing, where everything that is said in the studio is recorded from the time the studio is active, not just from the point you begin your interview. It’s an emergency back-up.

“It was four o’clock in the morning and I had literally just got in. I went into the studio to have a conversation about Trump. And because we have known each other for 30 years, I said, ‘We’re not going to talk about Trump, we’re going to talk about this.’ It was just a wind-up. And then we got on with the interview.” 

Mr Humphrys has upset many colleagues who earn significantly less than him.

Rumours of the recording were out days before it surfaced.

Now some suggest he will retire “within two years” – a timeline which could be sped up by the furore.

One insider said the BBC co-workers of Mr Humphrys were furious.

He said: “There are very hard-working people on shows like Today who earn less than one-tenth of what John Humphrys is on, and they hear him say this.

“Studio managers, engineers and producers are incredibly skilled. If you treat them nicely, they tend to treat you nicely too. I’m afraid one or two of them have been on the receiving end from John and may have decided enough was enough.”

Woman’s Hour presenter Jane Garvey was among those who went public with their distaste.

She said the exchange “reveals, very neatly, what we’re up against” in the battle for women at the Beeb.

Last night Ms Garvey said: “It was a private conversation and I have a certain amount of sympathy for the manner in which this has been exposed, whilst also feeling a bit let down. The man is a brilliant broadcaster and an incisive interviewer, and I’m disappointed by this.”

A BBC spokesman said: “John Humphrys is bound by the same rules on impartiality as all other BBC presenters.”

Daily Express

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