LBC apologises over clip of presenter James O'Brien telling caller 'if a child dies, it's on you'


LBC presenter James O’Brien has launched a public attack on his own radio station for the way it promoted a clip from his show during which he told a caller: “When a child dies, it’s on you.”

O’Brien had an exchange with a concerned parent called Michael on his show on Monday about the issue of schools in England reopening next week for the first time since they were closed during the coronavirus pandemic.

Boris Johnson has said parents have a “moral duty” to send their children back to school in September.

When the caller, a father-of-three, said his children needed to go back to school, at the end of a lengthy exchange O’Brien told him: “When a child dies, it’s on you.”

LBC presenter James O'Brien told a parent who called his show: 'When a child dies, it's on you.' (LBC)
LBC presenter James O'Brien told a parent who called his show: 'When a child dies, it's on you.' (LBC)

LBC later published an article on its website and tweeted about the exchange, but pulled both after O’Brien complained about the way it was presented.

In its since deleted tweet to promote the show, LBC wrote: “This caller backed schools returning next week despite the risk of coronavirus – James O’Brien told him that ‘if a child dies it’s on you’.”

But O’Brien later tweeted: “There’s something very 2020 about trending on Twitter after explaining, at length, why I couldn’t pick a ‘side’ on school returns because both decisions involve dangerous consequences.

“Obviously, I’m stunned by the incredibly crass way the clip was written up & promoted by @LBC”.

After deleting its original tweet, the station later issued an apology, tweeting: “Earlier today we published a tweet linking to an edited version of this call to James O'Brien.

“The tweet lacked important context and we apologise to James for the way it unintentionally misrepresented his view. To set record straight, here is the call in full.”

During the five-minute exchange with Michael, O’Brien said: “The problem will be, and I think we should probably get this up front and centre before it happens, and obviously please God it won’t happen, but when there is an outbreak or God forbid even a fatality, this is the thing they can’t say out loud isn’t it, that that is the calculation, that is the price that you believe and they believe and this is why I’m still 50/50 despite the power of your arguments.

“When that happens, it’s on you, mate.”

LBC removed a page on its website describing the exchange. (LBC)
LBC removed a page on its website describing the exchange. (LBC)

When Michael tried to argue with this, O’Brien continued: “You can’t not agree with that, it’s just true.

“When it happens, it’s on the people that were most supportive of the idea of going back to school. That’s why I’m in a very rare position of ambivalence.

“You’re not arguing with me, you’re agreeing with me, but it’s on you. That dead child. I only need to find one, Michael, and it’s on you.

“If you are 100% behind this idea, then when a child dies it’s on you.”

O’Brien was criticised by a number of Twitter users, including ITV’s Good Morning Britain presenter, Piers Morgan.

He tweeted: “Wow. You tell a listener the death of ANY schoolchild from COVID is personally on him if he thinks (as most people do) that kids should now return to school - and now chuck your network and its social media team under the bus for tweeting accurately what you said? Shameless.”

O’Brien tweeted back: “They’ve apologised and explained the mistake, Piers. The matter is closed.”

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