Sunday, January 4, 2009
George Galloway axed from TalkSPORT after scuffle with police at pro-Palestinian rally
By Tamara Cohen
Last updated at 5:53 PM on 04th January 2009
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George Galloway was axed from presenting his TalkSPORT show this weekend as producers feared his anti-Israel views would be too biased.
The Respect MP was involved in a scuffle with police at a pro-Palestinian rally hours before his live current affairs programme was due to air on Saturday night.
TalkSPORT staff last night said he had been replaced by Ian Collins so the programme would provide a more 'balanced' view of the conflict in Gaza.
George Galloway (third from left) stands shoulder to shoulder with Tony Benn and Annie Lennox at a pro-Palestinian rally at Embankment, London
But they downplayed rumours that Galloway's £100,000-a-year contract to present the controversial talk show could be in jeopardy.
The MP for Bethnal Green and Bow was one of a hardcore of protestors heading for the Israeli embassy in Kensington on Saturday, after attending a rally in Trafalgar Square.
There were outbreaks of violence as hundreds of angry protestors clashed with police, resulting in 15 arrests.
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Outside the Israeli embassy off Kensington High Street, officers in riot gear had to step in as car windows were smashed, officers were dragged into the crowd and missiles aimed at the embassy building, the Metropolitan police said.
Galloway was among a breakaway group of protestors who claimed to have been surrounded by police in a Hyde Park underpass as the crowd made their way there.
Last night a spokesman for talkSPORT, where Galloway has presented his twice weekly programme since March 2006 confirmed he had been replaced by Ian Collins on his 10pm slot.
After the protest on Saturday, Galloway told reporters police had ambushed the protestors in a tunnel and 'attacked us repeatedly'.
But a Metropolitan Police spokesman said officers had to advance into the crowd to regain control as protestors had thrown missiles and attempted to push through police lines.
Over the Christmas period, Galloway's programme 'The Mother of all Talk Shows' has been aired every day.
A source at the station said last night: 'A decision was taken by the director of programming that we wanted to have Ian Collins, to give a more balanced view of the Gaza situation. We felt this would be in the best interests of everyone.'
A talkSport spokesman said: 'George was at the rally during the day and a decision was taken to have Ian Collins present the programme.
'As the Israelis invaded Gaza last night we felt it would be more appropriate to have a rolling news programme than a talk show. George's show will be back on as normal this Friday.'
Galloway supporters were said to have bombarded talkSport with calls and emails accusing the station of bowing to pressure from 'the Israel lobby'. The spokesman said he was 'not aware' of complaints being received.
On the talkSport website, the station boasts about Galloway's extreme views and notorious friendship with the former Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein.
It says: 'Gorgeous George has also shared tea and biscuits with now displaced-despot and all round bad guy that is former president of Iraq, Saddam Hussein, and his sons Uday and Qusay, who were known to be fond of torturing footballers that couldn’t beat Barcelona blindfolded.'
During his show on Friday, Galloway had a blazing on-air row with the Times leader writer Oliver Kamm about the war in Gaza.
A Labour MP for 18 years, Galloway was thrown out in 2003 for 'bringing the party into disrepute'. Opposing the war in Iraq, he called Tony Blair a 'liar' and called on British troops to disobey the Government's orders.
He now represents the East London constituency of Bethnal Green and Bow for the Respect party.
Last night a spokesman for George Galloway would not comment on whether Galloway's contract with talkSPORT was in jeopardy.
He said: 'I can't comment on that at the moment. George was told Ian Collins would be presenting a rolling news programme instead of his programme, and that's all I can say.'