The veteran presenter left ITV following a Twitter exchange in which he quoted a Shakespeare passage, including the phrase “angry ape”.
Stewart said he made a “misjudgment” which he regretted. Colleagues lamented his departure with one senior ITN journalist insisting “he is not a racist” and describing the choice of quote as “no more than ill-judged”.
While ITN cut ties with Stewart, claiming he had breached editorial guidelines by quoting the line from Measure for Measure, his fellow broadcasters defended him amid the social media storm.
“I would never use the word ‘racist’ and his name in the same sentence,” said Ranvir Singh, political editor of ITV’s Good Morning Britain.
ITV news anchor Julie Etchingham added: “Al is a trusted friend and guide to many of us.”
Sky News’s Adam Boulton described him as a “a great TV journalist, professional model and friend.”
Stewart later told The Sunday Telegraph: “The decision that I took very clearly back in January, was to draw a line and not sit in my lovely farmhouse in Hampshire and weep and do the sums of my pension.
“I said ‘OK, fine, what else can I do?’, I’ve got the experience that I’ve got. Nobody can take that from me. I’m the age that I am, I can’t do anything about that. But there might be something to offer.”
GB News is chaired by broadcaster Andrew Neil. Other signings include broadcaster Kirsty Gallacher, ex-BBC presenter Simon McCoy, the former executive editor for The Sun, Dan Wootton, and ex-Sky broadcaster Colin Brazier.
Stewart said of his new appointment: “GB News is a unique opportunity to broaden the spectrum, challenge the groupthink and shift away from a predictable agenda in news and debate.
“I can’t wait to get stuck in and tackle issues that really matter to people across the United Kingdom.”
Director of news and programmes, John McAndrew, said: “Alastair is hugely respected across the country and we are honoured to have a journalist of his calibre and experience on board. He will anchor GB News in more ways than one.”
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