Countdown has suffered stinging criticism for broadcasting a homophobic slur.
A round in the beloved Channel 4 daytime television show asks contestants to spell out words from eight randomly selected letters.
On Monday afternoon (16 August), Countdown hopeful Matt was asked to read aloud his answer from the letters, “A, O, O, E, D, R, P, F, T”, when he began giggling.
His seven-letter answer was a “rude word,” he told host Anne Robinson. “I know [it] is in the dictionary, ‘poofter’,” he said.
Robinson did not react and instead moved the show swiftly on, calling for fellow contestant Roy to reveal his answer: “Proofed.”
Over in the dictionary corner, neither series regular Susie Dent or guest Jeremy Thompson commented on Matt’s answer. They simply mused on “proofed” and offered “footpad” as another potential word.
Countdown viewers enraged contestant ‘cheerfully’ saying homophobic slur
The segment was slammed by Countdown viewers, both stunned that it was aired at all and by the way the show’s hosts merely shrugged it off.
“Sorry to go serious on something quite trivial,” tweeted journalist Scott Bryan, “but as someone who was called a ‘p***fter’ by homophobes on a daily basis, why on earth is Countdown allowing it to be said cheerfully as an answer on daytime television?”
Sorry to go serious on something quite trivial – but as someone who was called a “p***fter” by homophobes on a daily basis why on earth is Countdown allowing it to be said cheerfully as an answer on daytime television? pic.twitter.com/5jCf0wY8oM
— Scott Bryan (@scottygb) August 16, 2021
Pointless presenter Richard Osman replied: “Yes, I think, the contestant was embarrassed to be saying it, but in that situation, the easy solution is to all agree he scored seven points and to retake with a different answer.
“We’ve done that a couple of times with ‘correct’ answers.”
Absolutely. A very easy fix, and not an uncommon one.
— Richard Osman (@richardosman) August 16, 2021
He said what happened was an “easy fix and not an uncommon one” as people wondered why it was broadcast at all.
“I don’t think people are insulted,” he added. “I think they would probably just rather not be reminded of a word that was thrown at them for years if there’s a simple alternative.
“I suspect people are just very very tired of it.”
BBC Radio 1 presenter Dean McCullough said: “Immediately not this.”
Writer Adam Kay added:”I don’t think it’s trivial. If the best word someone could come up with is a word in the dictionary that would have the channel taken off the air, I’m sure they’d replay the round.
“Not sure this should be treated as any different.”
Countless Twitter users agreed, with many wondering why Channel 4 did not simply bleep out or reshoot the round without the word altogether.
I don’t think it’s the contestant’s fault because he came up with a valid, point-scoring word, but why not just accept that and then re-record showing that he also got ‘proofed’ or something else of equal value? Absolutely no reason for that word to be broadcast https://t.co/ehFgWIpXvT
— Stephen (@sjbxo_) August 16, 2021
Quite how this passed the ‘okay to broadcast on daytime TV’ test I don’t know https://t.co/r0LlHp7XKP
— Jonny Freeman (@jfreeman_93) August 16, 2021
Yikes. Definitely should’ve been edited out. https://t.co/2eR0Tmn2pk
— Lorna_TVeditor (@Lorna_TVeditor) August 16, 2021
Channel 4 later issued a statement apologising for the “error in judgement”.
“The airing of the word was an error of judgement. It does not align with our values and we apologise for any offence caused,” it said.