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BBC Radio Show Blunder Adds to Woes at Company's News Division

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The U.K public broadcaster had to apologize for asking Britain's chief rabbi a question about Gaza without telling him that he was still on air.

LONDON - In another blunder at the BBC News division, the U.K. public broadcaster on Friday had to apologize to Britain's chief rabbi after asking him a question about violence in the Middle East on a radio show without telling him that he was still on air.

The rabbi, Jonathan Sacks, had appeared on the BBC's Radio 4 early Friday to present the popular "Thought for the Day:" segment on the "Today" morning show. After the segment, host Evan Davis asked him about his take on the reasons for the violence in Gaza.

"I think it's got to do with Iran, actually," Sacks said before a co-host whispered "we're live," according to the Guardian. Sacks then changed his tone and called for "a continued prayer for peace, not only in Gaza but for the whole region," adding that "no one gains from violence," the paper said.

Sources described the chief rabbi as angry and said he complained to the "Today" production team. "This is another cock-up for BBC News," one senior BBC source told the Guardian. "It is a cardinal law that you don't do that to a Thought for the Day presenter - that's a separate thing, and you don't ask them questions like that."

The BBC issued an apology after the incident, which comes less than a week after director general George Entwistle resigned over the weekend following a wrong report on flagship TV news show Newsnight, which had implicated a British politician in a child abuse scandal. The BBC has also been hurting from a slew of sexual abuse accusations against late former BBC host Jimmy Savile, including incidents that happened on BBC premises. 

"The chief rabbi hadn't realized he was still on air, and as soon as this became apparent, we interjected," the BBC said in a statement about the radio incident on Friday. "Evan likes to be spontaneous with guests, but he accepts that in this case it was inappropriate and he has apologized to Lord Sacks. The BBC would reiterate that apology."

Email: Georg.Szalai@thr.com

Twitter: @georgszalai