Newsnight presenter Jeremy Paxman’s use of the term “religious hogwash” to introduce the Biblical book of Genesis was “offensive”, a report by the BBC has acknowledged.
Mr Paxman also referred to those who hold to a literal belief in the Old Testament as “stupid people”.
The presenter, known for his robust interviewing style, made the comments during an interview with atheist Professor Richard Dawkins last September.
Now the BBC Trust’s Editorial Standards Committee has acknowledged that the comments were “offensive”.
The Committee maintains that Mr Paxman’s use of the terms “religious hogwash” and “stupid people” was not intended to deliberately cause offence.
But it acknowledges “that they were offensive to some of the audience and that there was no clear editorial purpose for their use in the context of this Newsnight item”.
The Trust’s report added: “The committee therefore concluded that the item breached the editorial guidelines on harm and offence. It added that it regretted the offence caused to some viewers by the use of the terms ‘religious hogwash’ and ‘stupid people’ on this occasion.”
However, the Trust rejected suggestions that the show had breached guidelines on impartiality.
Mr Paxman’s comments prompted one viewer to complain that the piece was offensive and biased.
The complaint was initially rejected prompting the viewer to write to the Corporation’s Editorial Complaints Unit which again ruled against it.
But following an appeal the complaint was partly upheld by the BBC Trust’s Editorial Standards Committee.
A BBC spokeswoman said: “Newsnight notes the trust’s finding that viewers may have found some of the comments offensive, but also welcomes the finding that the piece achieved due impartiality.”
In June one of the broadcaster’s former newsmen said that institutionally, the BBC doesn’t much care for evangelical Christians.
Dennis Sewell worked for more than 20 years at BBC News and said the Corporation views “religious faith” as “a hangover from a bygone age”.
A report produced by him accused the BBC of being over-considerate towards Islam — in marked contrast to its treatment of Christianity.