The BBC’s shambolic interview with Andrew Tate shows – yet again – just how far TV journalism has deteriorated

In this corner: Lucy Williamson takes on Andrew Tate in a fiery BBC interview.

The BBC’s shambolic interview with Andrew Tate shows just how far TV journalism has deteriorated

It was looking like the 2018 exchange between Channel 4’s Cathy Newman and influential psychologist Jordan Peterson was secure in its status as the most educational trainwreck TV interview so far this century.

Now, it seems, we have a new contender.

Last week the BBC was granted its long-standing wish for an interview with controversial cultural influencer Andrew Tate.

Conducted by reporter Lucy Williamson, the interview had to take place at his home in Romania.

Tate is under house arrest after spending six months in jail for allegations of rape, human trafficking and forcing women to produce online porn. The prosecutors have till June’s end to bring the matter to trial.

Unsurprisingly, Tate trumpets his complete innocence.

So, here, finally, was the big chance for the BBC to grill the notorious Andrew Tate – to put the fire to his feet about the charges, to skewer him about his regressive values, his dangerous influence, his misogyny and the hyper-masculine image he peddles to impressionable young men across the globe.

Ahh. The headlines: BBC hangs Andrew Tate out to dry; Andrew Tate withers under razor- sharp questioning; Nailed! Blowtorch BBC interview leaves Andrew Tate in tatters.

Didn’t quite turn out that way.

As with the Newman exchange, the BBC interview was derailed by bad questions, poor tactics, poorer preparation and a clear misunderstanding of who was sitting in the chair opposite.

It was a masterclass in precisely how not to confront a controversial public figure such as Andrew Tate.

Tate’s huge online following, supreme self-confidence and Jovian ego make for a media beast who is tough to beat – as the BBC proved.

The hapless interviewer was simply overwhelmed by Tate’s force of personality.

Rather than piercing through his signature bluster with a cool demeanor and considered questions – textbook BBC style, surely – she played right into his hands with her constant interruptions and unyielding adversarial attitude.

All this did was fuel Tate’s narrative about how the “legacy” media of “the matrix” is out to get him.

The BBC’s big tactical blunder was a common one, with the reporter trying to win an argument from a fixed position rather than conduct an interview seeking clarity and truth.

It illustrated how the old-school idea of asking set questions and listening to a full response, with challenging follow ups, has been overtaken by clumsy attempts at “gotcha” journalism, where replies are constantly interrupted.

This happened all the time. It was a mess that allowed Tate’s to get away with way too much.

When will TV interviewers finally register that when they cut somebody off mid-sentence with an agenda-driven interjection it makes them look like an arrogant prat. “Let me finish,” Tate had to say at one point. A bad look.

In too many instances she simply wasn’t listening.

Her constant invocations of Tate’s alleged sexism and misogyny refused to account for his belief that a man’s duty is to protect women. They were also at odds with his protestations that he loves women.

There was no interest, let alone attempt, to engage with him on this issue and trying to reconcile how an alleged misogynist could say such things.

This lead to moments where she seemed lost. When Tate said he and the other men in the room would protect her from a violent intruder, she was flummoxed.

Then there was her attempt to argue that Tate owning a Bugatti was somehow linked to being a misogynist. He seemed genuinely mystified and asked her to explain. She tried, failed.

Worse was how her case for his misogyny relied so much on an isolated quote from a five-year-old podcast.

This allowed Tate go into a tirade ridiculing her research, insisting she hadn’t bothered listening to the whole show, thus didn’t understand the context or the intent.

As is the cause of so much baseless online outrage, she was taking seriously what was clearly meant as a joke. Tate had to restate his actual position three times.

Tate landed another punch by negating any presumption of journalistic authority, stating they were equals.

He went further, insisting he was doing the BBC a favour by granting the interview and making them seem relevant. He had no respect for her or the legacy media she represented and he wasn’t afraid to say so. Ouch.

Tate is a highly skilled player, thoroughly schooled in how to work the camera, work the room, work the crowd.

Similar to Trump, his approach is purely post-media that allows him to get away with far more than he should.

He understands how the traditional media rules of engagement play to his strengths – his on-camera presence, his confident delivery, his highly quotable, rapid-fire style and – dare one say it – his high-functioning mind. This allows him to bluster his way through hard questions.

And he knows all-too-well how dubious the editing process is, which is why Tate recorded the entire interview himself as protection from being misrepresented.

It’s turned out to be a very smart move. Tate’s single-take record of the interview runs 38 minutes.

The BBC’s version is a lean 10 minutes and is almost laughably lopsided, leaving out a whole bunch of important qualifications and clarifications.

How could they leave out the bit where he says how he’s modified his utterances in deference to his influence?

This begs the question: why not publish the full interview along with the compressed version? Why have a short version at all? Long-form journalism’s all the go.

Most baffling is how our interviewer seemed unconcerned about how the unedited version would made her look, especially in the final few minutes.

Her refusal to thank Tate or to even shake his hand came across as petty, especially given Tate’s magnanimous, upbeat post-interview demeanour.

She came across as the clear loser in the confrontation, having done little more than feed Tate’s over-sized ego.

It was hard not to feel a little sorry for her.

In an amusing postscript to the BBC interview, Tate posted a video saying that all the legacy media requests for interviews would come at a cost of $50,000 and a box of chocolates.

The money he would funnel into his children’s charities, and provide receipts. The chocolates he would eat during the interview.


Here’s the full interview.

Here’s the edited BBC version.

Here’s Tate’s funny post-interview edict.