As the host of BBC One’s “The Apprentice,” Alan Sugar is used to giving candidates on the reality show a dressing-down. On Wednesday, he faced similar treatment from his bosses at the BBC and from outraged social media users who labeled a tweet by Sugar as racist, which caused the businessman-turned-TV star to issue a rare apology.
Sugar’s original tweet showed Senegal’s World Cup soccer team with another picture of rows of sunglasses and handbags positioned in front of them. An accompanying message read: “I recognise some of these guys from the beach in Marbella. Multi tasking resourceful chaps.”
Twitter users were quick to decry the post an example of casual racism. The BBC, which airs “The Apprentice” in Britain, stopped short of calling the tweet racist, preferring to describe it as “misjudged.” Sugar “has acknowledged this was a seriously misjudged tweet, and he’s in no doubt about our view on this,” the pubcaster said in a statement. “It’s right he’s apologised unreservedly.”
Sugar, who has almost 5.5 million Twitter followers, used similar wording in his own apology tweet, posted before that of the BBC: “I misjudged me [sic] earlier tweet. It was in no way intended to cause offence, and clearly my attempt at humour has backfired. I have deleted the tweet and am very sorry.”
That mea culpa contrasted with earlier comments from Sugar, who has cultivated a TV and industry persona as a tough-talking businessman. His initial response to the furor over his tweet was to say “I can’t see what I have to apologise for” and “it’s a bloody joke.” He said his tweet had been interpreted in the wrong way.
The timing was especially bad for the BBC, which Wednesday published a report on how to create a more inclusive culture for black, Asian, and ethnic minority staff and have more individuals from those backgrounds in senior positions at the organization.