The BBC has sacked Danny Baker, saying he showed a “serious error of judgement” over his tweet about the Duke and Duchess of Sussex’s baby.
The tweet, which he later deleted but which has been circulated on social media, showed an image of a couple holding hands with a chimpanzee dressed in clothes with the caption: “Royal Baby leaves hospital”.
The BBC 5 Live presenter was accused of mocking the duchess’s racial heritage.
Baker claimed it was a “stupid gag”.
The 61-year-old presented a Saturday morning show on the network.
The corporation said Baker’s tweet “goes against the values we as a station aim to embody”.
It added: “Danny’s a brilliant broadcaster but will no longer be presenting a weekly show with us.”
His comment about red sauce references the Sausage Sandwich Game from his 5 Live show, in which listeners choose what type of sauce a celebrity would choose to eat.
After tweeting an apology, in which he called the tweet a “stupid unthinking gag pic”, Baker said the BBC’s decision “was a masterclass of pompous faux-gravity”.
“[It] took a tone that said I actually meant that ridiculous tweet and the BBC must uphold blah blah blah,” he added. “Literally threw me under the bus. Could hear the suits’ knees knocking.”
Speaking to the media outside his house, he told reporters: “I do not, not understand all of this, I get it. But for 5 Live to chuck us under the bus like this, dear lord.”
When quizzed on what he would do next, he added: “I’m annoyingly ebullient and if you’re accused of the kind of grotesque racism but you’re not, you don’t wring your hands. Ill advised, ill thought out and stupid, but racist? No, I’m aware how delicate that imagery is.”
Harry and Meghan, whose mother Doria Ragland is African American, revealed on Wednesday their new son was named Archie Harrison Mountbatten-Windsor.
Broadcaster Scarlette Douglas, who works on shows including 5 Live podcast The Sista Collective and The One Show, told the BBC: “I think somebody told him what you’ve tweeted was incorrect, so you should maybe say something or take it down.
“Yes, OK, he took it down, but his apology for me wasn’t really an apology. I don’t think it’s right and I think subsequently what’s happened is correct.”
After the initial backlash on social media on Wednesday, Baker said: “Sorry my gag pic of the little fella in the posh outfit has whipped some up. Never occurred to me because, well, mind not diseased.
“Soon as those good enough to point out its possible connotations got in touch, down it came. And that’s it.”
Just before he was sacked, he told his half a million Twitter followers he was doorstepped by reporters at his home, saying he was asked: “Do you think black people look like monkeys?”
His tweet added: “No mate. Gag pic. Posh baby chimp. Alerted to circs. Appalled. Deleted. Apologised.”
In a following tweet, he added: “Would have used same stupid pic for any other Royal birth or Boris Johnson kid or even one of my own. It’s a funny image. (Though not of course in that context.) Enormous mistake, for sure. Grotesque.
“Anyway, here’s to ya Archie, Sorry mate.”
Baker’s Saturday Morning show on BBC Radio 5 Live won him a Sony Gold award for Speech Radio Personality of the Year in 2011, 2012 and 2014 and a Gold Award for entertainment show of the year in 2013.
His irrepressible style made him one of the most popular radio presenters of his generation and saw him described by one writer as the “ultimate geezer”.
Baker was also a successful magazine columnist, scriptwriter and TV documentary maker.
He wrote a number of TV shows including Pets Win Prizes and Win, Lose or Draw and, in 1990, The Game, a series about an amateur soccer team in east London.
A stint at BBC London station GLR in the late ’80s saw him strike up an enduring friendship with fellow broadcaster Chris Evans, and Baker would later write scripts for the Channel 4 show TFI Friday, which Evans hosted.
It’s the second time Baker has been axed by 5 Live and is the third time he has left the BBC.
In 1997, he was fired for encouraging football fans to make a referee’s life hell after the official had awarded a controversial penalty in an FA Cup tie.
He later claimed he had never incited fans to attack the referee, only that he would have understood if they had.
In 2012, two weeks before he was inducted into the Radio Hall of Fame he was was back in the news after an on-air rant in which he resigned and branded his bosses at BBC London, “pinheaded weasels“. The outburst came after Baker had been asked to move from a weekday programme to a weekend.
It’s a dirty rotten shame and a rotten way they did it,” he said at the time. “Nobody phoned me. Apparently they were planning on getting round to telling me.”
In 2016, Baker took part on I’m a Celebrity… Get Me Out Of Here but was the first person to be voted off in the series.