BBC apologizes for 'unchallenged claims' about J.K. Rowling for the second time this month

J.K. Rowling in Nov. 8, 2018.
Writer J.K. Rowling at the world premiere of the film "Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald" in Paris. (Christophe Ena / AP)
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The BBC has apologized for its coverage of J.K. Rowling for the second time this year after an on-air guest was unchallenged when referencing the “Harry Potter” author as anti-trans.

While discussing the controversy surrounding the Harry Potter video game "Hogwarts Legacy" on BBC Radio Scotland’s "Good Morning Scotland" show, which aired Feb. 10, gamer guest Lee Rob and transgender writer and “technology expert gamer” Carrie Marshall discussed the “culture wars” surrounding the video game.

"Quite a lot of LGBT+ people are concerned about the Harry Potter franchise because J.K. Rowling has been very proud of her association with the so-called gender critical movement and some of its leading figures, and has also strongly suggested that she considers her income as proof that people share her views," Marshall said when detailing why she had chosen not to purchase the game.

"So this has become about much much more than the video game. To some people this is about a culture war issue and we’re seeing some people are now harassing trans gamers, saying ‘I’m buying 10 copies of this, what are you going to do about it?’ and it’s become really quite horrible online."

BBC host Lucy White asked Rob whether he had witnessed any of the anti-trans harassment in online gaming spaces and he said he "absolutely has" and "absolutely deplores the culture war against transgender people."

"I don't align myself with some of the things J.K. Rowling has put out in recent years," he continued. "But I think it's possible to separate the artist from the art."

Marshall countered Rob's take, saying in this case, the artist's financial gain may be used to negatively impact the lives of trans people.

“I think specifically here with the idea of separating the art from the artist, this is money that people believe very strongly is going to be used to fund the anti-trans movement," Marshall said.

"Which for example has got more than 300 anti-trans laws in front of U.S. legislatures. It’s become a real battleground in Britain as well. So this is having a measurable effect on trans people’s lives and potentially their safety too. ... It’s about actual, real people’s lives, and I think that’s why so many trans people are concerned about this game."

After the show aired, The BBC received numerous complaints that "the contributors in a discussion inaccurately attributed anti-transgender views to the author J.K. Rowling and that this went unchallenged by the programme."

On Feb. 17, the BBC issued a public response to the complaints stating, "The intention of this discussion was to focus on the release of the video game Hogwarts Legacy. Within the gaming community a debate has been underway, with some taking the decision not to purchase the game and some websites not reviewing it. The debate was cast with two gamers – one who had bought the game and one who was refusing to purchase it. It was our intention to focus on this issue within the gaming community, hearing from two contributors with different views.

"However, having reviewed the discussion as broadcast, it’s clear the debate got into the issue of gender identity and claims were made about J.K. Rowling’s views. We accept that the programme failed to challenge these claims and acknowledge that our contributors gave their opinion as fact. This fell below the rigorous editorial standards we’ve applied to our broad coverage of trans and gender recognition stories across BBC Scotland’s news and current affairs output, and we apologise for that."

This is the second time the BBC has publicly apologized for its coverage of J.K. Rowling in the last month. Deadline reported that the BBC received 199 complaints after news presenter Evan Davis did not immediately challenge a guest who claimed that J.K. Rowling was pushing "transphobia."

This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.