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10th Oct 2022

John Cleese to host new GB News show and insists it’s ‘not a right-wing channel’

‘Like John himself, it will be far from predictable’

John Cleese is set to join GB News and will host a new series next year, the network announced on Monday as the actor and comedian caused a stir by insisted the channel is “not right wing”.

In a statement, GB News said the programme will feature “John in conversation with his choice of guests on a wide range of areas that interest him”.

Cleese spoke about his new gig, a return to TV after a three-year hiatus, on BBC Radio 4’s Today Show on Monday. He last appeared on British screens in the sitcom Hold the Sunset in 2019, but hasn’t stopped making headlines since due to his divisive views.

The Executive Producer of Cleese’s show will be comedian and writer Andrew Doyle, who hosts Free Speech Nation on GB News, and is also EP of the channel’s newspaper review show, Headliners.

“John will have complete creative freedom to have the conversations he wants to have with the people who interest him most. Like John himself, it will be far from predictable,” Doyle said.

The Monty Python star said when he was approached by the network, he “didn’t know who they were”.

He told Amol Rajan on Radio 4: “I don’t know much about modern television because I’d pretty much given up on it – I mean English television – then I met one or two of the people concerned and I had a dinner with them and liked them every much.

“People say it’s a right-wing channel, it’s a free speech channel,” Cleese added.

When Rjan asked the 82-year-old about ‘wokeism’ – something Cleese has rallied against – and “how big a threat wokeism is to our culture”, he referred to himself an “old fashioned liberal”.

He said in America, “wokeism” was “worse”, adding: “The interesting thing is, the way the woke people conduct their campaign is I thought not very honest.”

Cleese’s former tweets on GB News were brought back up on Monday, after he asked about ‘Russian interests’ in the broadcaster.

In late August, he tweeted: “GB News is sometimes referred to, rather wittily, as ‘KGB News’ ‘To what extent is GB News influenced by Russian interests?”

Asked whether he’s received a satisfactory answer to his concerns, Cleese replied he’d spoken with Doyle about it and that, “I’m satisfied at the moment, but the whole point is, is it free speech or not, and after I start the show, we will find out.”

When questioned about his thoughts on the limits of free speech, Cleese said: “Somebody once said to me: ‘Everyone’s in favour of free speech, particularly for the ideas that they like’.”

Responding to whether free speech should extend to those misinformation about public health matters, Cleese said: “If there’s a factual response to something like that, then that should be made.

“That’s the job, to put the facts out there, and then to have opinions slightly separate and have a proper argument about it, but not to try to avoid a public debate and then try and get yourself through (on) social media.”

He went on: “The nice thing about talking to the GB News audience is that they may not be used to hearing the sorts of things I’ll be saying.

“The BBC have not come to me and said would you like to have some one-hour shows and if they did I’d say not on your nelly because I wouldn’t get five minutes into the first show before I’d been cancelled or censored.”

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