Viewers complain after BBC pulls Thatcher

Off-air remark leads to presenter's firing

LONDON -- More than 2,000 complaints have flooded into the BBC over its decision to drop presenter Carol Thatcher for describing a black tennis player as "a golliwog" in an off-air conversation.

The BBC said it had logged 2,200 complaints about the move and only 60 calls and e-mails in support of the action, which was taken after the comment was made in the Green Room of BBC1 evening magazine show "The One Show."

But BBC1 controller Jay Hunt has strongly defended the BBC's decision saying that Thatcher had "repeatedly" been asked to issue a full apology for the offense but had refused.

Speaking on BBC Radio, Hunt said Thatcher had referred to a black tennis player as "a golliwog" in front of 12 people including the show's other presenters and guests.

"What she decides to say at home in private is one thing, but we have given Carol ample opportunity to give a fulsome apology and she has chosen not to do so. She maintains that her comment was made in jest," Hunt said in an interview with the BBC Radio 4 Today program Thursday morning.

"This is not her working in a private space and she was not in the pub with her friends. She was sitting in a BBC green room on BBC premises surrounded by a diverse production team on 'The One Show' speaking to a BBC booked guest, a BBC booked celebrity and in the presence of a senior production worker from Comic Relief. In those circumstances she was effectively operating in a workplace."