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Actress refuses to appear on Woman’s Hour after accusing host Emma Barnett of degrading comments

Woman’s Hour host Emma Barnett has hit back at an actress who refused to appear on her show after she was challenged over anti-Semitic comments.  

Kelechi Okafor was set to discuss the MeToo movement on the BBC Radio 4 programme, but hung up two minutes before it went live after hearing Barnett discuss controversial remarks she had previously made.

In 2017, the actress was accused of anti-Semitism when she defended presenter Reggie Yates after he praised musicians who weren’t signed to ‘some random fat Jewish guy.’

Ms Okafor said in a now-deleted Apple podcast: ‘He [Reggie] is saying the truth…Are these Jewish managers not from North West London? I want to know where the fallacy is?

‘Black people in the entertainment industry have been short-changed so much by the kinds of people Reggie Yates describes. Apart from the ‘fat part’ I don’t see what he said wrong.’

Barnett, who took over hosting the popular Radio 4 show on Monday, said she ‘stands by her queries’ and had invited Ms Okafor to debate the matter. 

She said it was her ‘duty to ask people what qualifies them as a leading voice in a space. And about any previous issues which may influence their views.’ 

She added: ‘Just before I went on air this morning to present a special programme about Me Too – pegged to the anniversary of Harvey Weinstein’s court case – it came to my attention that Kelechi Okafor had made alleged anti-Semitic remarks. 

‘I stand by my questions to my team and to Kelechi. I would have happily hosted her on the programme with a question on this issue.’      

The episode airs just days after Jane Garvey signed off her final Woman’s Hour broadcast after 13 years

Emma Barnett (pictured, left and right on her first show on Monday) has taken over the Radio 4 staple, which has aired since 1946

Kelechi Okafor was set to appear on the BBC Radio 4 show to discuss the #MeToo movement one year after it began. But the British actress took to social media as Woman's Hour was on air, claiming she had come off the programme

Kelechi Okafor was set to appear on the BBC Radio 4 show to discuss the #MeToo movement one year after it began. But the British actress took to social media as Woman’s Hour was on air, claiming she had come off the programme

Ms Okafor tweeted fans to say she left the show after hearing a conversation when a mic was accidentally left on

Ms Okafor tweeted fans to say she left the show after hearing a conversation when a mic was accidentally left on

Barnett, who took over hosting the popular Radio 4 show on Monday, said she 'stands by her queries' and had invited Ms Okafor to debate the matter

Barnett, who took over hosting the popular Radio 4 show on Monday, said she ‘stands by her queries’ and had invited Ms Okafor to debate the matter

Who is Kelechi Okafor?

Kelechi Okafor was born in Lagos, Nigeria, before moving to the UK at the age of five where she was raised in south London. 

In 2017, the actress was accused of anti-Semitism after she defended BBC star Reggie Yates when he was dropped from hosting Top of The Pops after making anti-Semitic remarks. 

After Yates praised music stars for not being signed to ‘some random fat Jewish guy,’ Ms Okafor said in a now-deleted Apple podcast in 2017: ‘He [Reggie] is saying the truth and it just goes to show the power of a specific community that he can make a comment like that and everyone is like ‘whoa no, pull him from Top Of The Pops’.

‘Why? Are these Jewish managers not from North West London? I want to know where the fallacy is?’

She added: ‘Black people in the entertainment industry have been short-changed so much by the kinds of people Reggie Yates describes. Why are we not saying it as a form of truth. The fact is these men have dominated the industry for decades. He didn’t say anything wrong. They are taking most of the profits.

‘Apart from the ‘fat part’ I don’t see what he said wrong.

‘They [Jewish managers] like blackness as long as it is making them money.’

Ms Okafor studied at the BRIT School of performing arts in London, specialising in Musical Theatre and English Literature.

She has appeared in TV adverts for Maltesers, Samsung and Irn Bru as well as on stage. 

She is the founder of the Kelechnekoff Fitness Studio in Peckham, south London which runs pole dancing and twerking classes for black women and non-binary people.

In 2017, Ms Okafor became the first black female contestant to appear on BBC’s reality series Special Forces: Ultimate Hell Week. 

She eventually walked out of the competition because she was ‘frustrated’ with the way she said she was treated.

She told the Guardian: ‘They pieced things together that didn’t actually make sense in order to tell a story to the viewers,’ 

‘Kelechi’s struggling, she’s frustrated, she’s arguing with this man.’ In reality, my frustration came from the fact that I had to walk on eggshells so as to not appear angry.’ 

After Ms Okafor tweeted about her refusal to appear on the show today, Barnett issued a statement. 

She wrote: ‘Just before I went on air this morning to present a special programme about Me Too – pegged to the anniversary of Harvey Weinstein’s court case – it came to my attention that one of our guests, Kelechi Okafor, had made alleged anti-Semitic remarks.

‘I was also sent a press report of the transcript of what she had said on her podcast supporting Reggie Yates’s comments about Jewish male managers and profits.

‘As Weinstein is also Jewish and was referenced as part of this same podcast, I was discussing with my producers the role of this guest in light of her allegedly anti-Semitic comments. Kelechi overheard that chat on our open Zoom link – with two minutes to airtime.

‘I then directly talked to Kelechi about the allegations, standing by my queries, and said she could put her response across in the programme. She denied the allegations and hung up, choosing to no longer be part of the programme.

‘I stand by my questions to my team and to Kelechi. I would have happily hosted her on the programme with a question on this issue.’

She continued: ‘I believe people can always answer for themselves – but equally it is my duty to ask people what qualifies them as a leading voice in a space. And about any previous issues which may influence their views.

‘Any guest is entitled to make their own decisions about whether to appear on a programme but, in the interests of fairness, I feel it’s important to add some detail to the accounts that are currently circulating in the press and social media.

‘Woman’s Hour is a wonderful platform known for its robust journalism and asking all of the questions that need asking. I am greatly enjoying my first week.’ 

On the show this morning, Barnett spoke to Hollywood actresses Caitlin Dulany and Rosanna Arquette about the #MeToo movement. 

As the programme was live on air, Nigerian-British actress Ms Okafor revealed she had come off the show, writing: ‘Because what I’ve just had to witness is absolutely degrading and vile.’

Posting a video to Instagram, she added: ‘I won’t be going on Woman’s Hour now. The host didn’t realise her mic was on as she was talking s*** about me to the producers.’ 

A BBC spokesperson said: ‘During an off-air conversation ahead of the programme, Emma Barnett and the production team talked about a guest’s role in the discussion and how to reflect some of the guest’s alleged previous comments and the issue of anti-Semitism as part of the Woman’s Hour discussion on the role of minority voices in the MeToo movement.

‘This was also raised directly with the guest before going on air.’

Ms Okafor has appeared in TV adverts for Maltesers, Samsung and Irn Bru and on the BBC’s reality series Special Forces: Ultimate Hell Week. 

The mother-of-one added on Twitter today: ‘You can have a genuine concern about something you’ve been told about me and address it in a manner that is kind. That wasn’t what took place. 

‘Myself and the other people who would be talking during the segment could hear me being talked about like a d******d.’  

She appeared on Woman’s Hour in September last year, speaking about ‘how to be assertive’ on the show’s How To series.  

Barnett, pictured leaving the BBC Radio studio today, said: 'I stand by my questions to my team and to Kelechi. I would have happily hosted her on the programme with a question on this issue.'

Barnett, pictured leaving the BBC Radio studio today, said: ‘I stand by my questions to my team and to Kelechi. I would have happily hosted her on the programme with a question on this issue.’

Ms Okafor tweeted fans to say she left the show after hearing a conversation when a mic was accidentally left on

Ms Okafor tweeted fans to say she left the show after hearing a conversation when a mic was accidentally left on

Actress refuses to appear on Woman's Hour after accusing host Emma Barnett of degrading comments

Actress refuses to appear on Woman's Hour after accusing host Emma Barnett of degrading comments

Today, the actress told fans she had left the show after hearing a conversation when a mic was accidentally left on. She tweeted: ‘Hi guys I’m coming off woman’s hour because what I’ve just had to witness is absolutely degrading and vile. 

‘The host didn’t realise her mic was on as she was talking about me before the interview started is all I’m going to say. 

‘When [the host] clocks the mic is on suddenly it’s ‘well kelechi could you just explain to me because I’m trying to give you a chance to explain…’ 

‘It was on your producers to have explained and done their research. It was on you to check your mic. 

‘The need for me on today’s show was to offer balance to these wayward women thinking that the MeToo movement is no longer needed. 

‘The fact is that if you feel it’s no longer needed for your white middle class sensibilities marginalised voices still need it.

‘We haven’t heard from everybody regarding the violations they’ve faced. The originators of the MeToo movement were Black women. From enslaved Black women who were raped by slave owners to Tarana Burke yet their voices are yet to be honoured.’ 

Ms Okafor has been contacted for comment. 

During her first episode in the chair, Emma (pictured), 35, spoke with actress Imelda Staunton, Spice Girl Mel C, Jeremy Hunt, Richard Ratcliffe, and Sonia Khan

During her first episode in the chair, Emma (pictured), 35, spoke with actress Imelda Staunton, Spice Girl Mel C, Jeremy Hunt, Richard Ratcliffe, and Sonia Khan

On Monday Barnett, 35, took over the Radio 4 staple, which has aired since 1946. 

BBC Breakfast presenter Naga Munchetty moved into the slot on Radio 5 live that she had previously occupied. 

Outgoing host Jane Garvey signed off her final Woman’s Hour broadcast after 13 years on January 1 – declaring that the ‘show needs to move on and now it can’. 

Miss Garvey told listeners: ‘During the course of these cataclysmic years on Woman’s Hour, I’ve learnt that actually, for all sorts of reasons, women have to be that bit better, we have to try harder (than men), it’s going to be a bit tougher for us.’ 

Today’s programme about the ‘Me Too’ movement’ took place one year on from the start of Harvey Weinstein’s court case in America. 

Barnett was discussing, ‘what the #MeToo movement has achieved and the unintended consequences.’

But the show also sparked anger among some listeners after one of the actresses claimed some women ‘lied’ about sexual abuse accusations. 

She told the show: ‘There are the bad apples out there that jump on the band wagon and maybe aren’t telling the truth..you hope there aren’t too many liars out there.’ 

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