He was absolutely first-rate.
It was one of the best contributions I’ve heard from a journalist in many a year.
His colleagues on the panel either did not fully understand the point he was trying to make – which is to suggest that they are idiots who shouldn’t even be on the air – or they were trying desperately to deflect from them. You can guess what their possible motives for that would be.
To be frank, he was a credit to the BBC and those he was sharing a studio with failed utterly to meet his standards. Broadfoot and McIntyre were a joke. They repeated the accusation that Morelos suffers racist abuse, an accusation without an iota of evidence to support it.
They repeatedly tried to shift the conversation away from where Stewart believed it should be.
He was fulfilling the BBC’s public service responsibility, by asking a difficult and important question, and focussing on a matter of grave consequence. They wanted to focus on fluff. I do not believe it’s just because they are bad at their jobs.
In the piece I wrote about the Morelos saga over the weekend, I posed the question as to whether or not Bill Leckie’s article on the player reflected anger from inside the press corps about the efforts to paint the player as some kind of paragon of virtue when the truth is very different.
It is clear now, from listening to Stewart, that a growing number of them are disquieted by just how far the Morelos cheerleaders are willing to go.
Gary Ralston is one of the worst. His sickening article on Morelos last month sparked a major backlash and, on this site, one of the most scathing responses I’ve ever written. Ralston’s piece was an obvious attempt to shift the debate away from Morelos’ on-field behaviour and to paint him, instead, as a victim of sinister forces out to get him.
It was a conspiracy theory piece, with no basis in fact or reality, pumped out by a national newspaper.
It was propaganda.
And who benefits? His club did.
They were able to beat off an SFA investigation that should have been a formality, and put under pressure any official who has to officiate in a game where Morelos plays. Any sending off can now be painted as part of the “conspiracy”.
It stands to reason that it will have an effect for the rest of this campaign.
This transparent stratagem to protect their most valuable asset and keep him on the pitch, even when his behaviour demands sanction, is underhanded and corrupt. What happened last week though went well beyond that, and was actually dangerous, as Michael Stewart rightly surmises.
It portrayed this country in a wholly negative light. It bent reality. It presented a grotesque and inflammatory lie as if it were a fact.
In doing so, it raised the levels of hate.
And as Stewart, and Sutton, and others are right to point out, it painted targets on people’s backs.
This idea that Scottish society had gotten so toxic for Morelos that people might be willing to kill him was so pervasive that Graeme McGarry, of The Evening Times, who to my knowledge has never written a negative word about Morelos, actually put himself and his profession under the spotlight and posed the question as to whether they were complicit in that.
Morelos is the architect of almost all of his own problems.
The abuse he gets from the stands can cross the line, but every player in Scotland has been subjected to abuse. As Stewart pointed out, this was the weekend where Shay Logan went on the offensive against people racially abusing him at Ibrox. One culprit actually apologised to him for it.
But that story got none of the headlines Morelos’ claim did.
His interview last Friday with Sky Sports was plastered all over the papers instead, an interview, by the way, which a Celtic Facebook page from Alicante has alleged was misrepresented by the Sky Sports translation to be far more controversial than it actually was.
Who was responsible for that? Whose agenda was being served?
As Stewart said, it came a week after Sevco had lost at Tynecastle and in the same weekend they drew at home to Aberdeen, to fall seven points behind us in the league.
The football issues no longer seem to matter though, not when the Sevco manager can sit in front of the press and allege that Scottish football has a racism problem. That’s the headline. That’s the story, although it is manifestly untrue.
But it stops them from asking him hard questions about his own failings as a coach, so it’s a job well done.
Scottish football has a few idiots in its stands.
That does not equate to a problem with racism.
Italian football has a problem with racism. Russian football has a problem with racism. Certain clubs in England and across Europe are haunted by it and can’t seem to shift it. And one club in Scotland has a long history of the anti-Irish variant of it.
Of course, no-one wants to talk about that either.
This started out as a way to free Morelos of his own on-field baggage.
As Leckie pointed out, this is a ned and a cheat, a diver, an elbow thrower, a guy with red and yellow cards piling up. Not one person in the mainstream press has hit out at this claim that he is refereed differently. In point of fact, I do think he is, but not in the way his fanclub means.
He certainly will be in future, as no referee will want to have his name splattered all over the Sevco-friendly press for joining the campaign to “drive him out Scottish football” – one of the most insidious and despicable lies in this whole charade.
The people keenest to get Morelos out of Scotland are those on the Ibrox board who know a major player sale is the only way to balance the books. Many of us suspect that they are responsible for putting many of these ideas into the public sphere as a way of justifying a sale at far below what their alleged “asking price” is.
That the idea of a player being “forced out” of the game here because of racists and psychopaths will deeply damage the reputation of the sport and – ironically – made it far harder for them to find a good replacement who’ll come here, appears not to trouble them.
But it troubles other people, like Leckie, like Stewart and I daresay a good many more who are keeping their heads down.
I cannot support that; I think journalists should speak up whenever they believe the public is being deceived or let down, but in the midst of the firestorm currently raging, I understand the urge.
I understand why they might do it.
The point where Stewart snapped was the publication, last week, of stories about the alleged “tampering” with Morelos’ car.
Today he’s under attack from The Daily Record for suggesting that they had been fed the story.
They have denied mentioning “tampering with the brakes” in their articles – which is true; those words are never used in the pieces – but the inference is clearly there and the writers at that rag know full well that it is.
The allegation is practically screaming from the headlines.
The one above the Ralston-Jackson piece shrieks the word “sabotage”.
It is described as a “traumatic incident” – there’s even the suggestion his thigh injury might have been caused by it.
And for good measure the article throws in a fan comment from Follow Follow at the end; “Hating a player is one thing but tampering with a car could kill him.”
You do not need to have worked at Bletchley Park to get the message.
This wasn’t a case of someone making mischief, it was an attempt to seriously injure or even murder the player.
The whole of the Jackson-Ralston article is tainted by their decision to end it on that note.
There was no reason to put such an inflammatory comment in there otherwise.
They did that deliberately. The worst possible interpretation of this incident was given credence … and for days the Newsnow feeds were filled with stories darkly hinting that the alleged persecution of Morelos had taken the darkest possible turn.
Stewart made a factual error; for that he’s going to cop a lot of flak. But really, his mistake is cake compared to what the press has done here, or at least helped to do. He is correct to suggest that this story was given to the papers by someone … and he’s right to suggest that this would not have been the police. He’s also right that whoever fed it to the media did so in a way that assured the most lurid headlines imaginable … all based on a fictitious premise.
Stewart’s point was that this story was put in the public domain very deliberately, that it was certainly aggressively spun, and that the objective was to suggest that someone had tried to do Morelos harm. That is the point he was making, and does it really matter which newspaper broke it first? His point was that the people or person who gave this to them was pursuing an agenda, and to Hell with what the consequences were.
And they could have been severe.
Stewart, Sutton and others were accused of having fanned the flames which led to the attempted murder of an Ibrox player. It does not take a genius to see how that could have led to actual harm being threatened or visited on them.
Both men – indeed all of us – should be deeply concerned at the way some in the press fed that view, which was already rampant on the Ibrox websites, as I said at the weekend.
This is where Stewart drew the line.
That’s what sparked his angry response last night.
The Morelos Victim Lie has swollen to the point where it’s now having a real impact on how the game here is perceived, and those pushing it have shown themselves to have no regard for the wellbeing of others as they ramp up the pressure. They will stop at nothing.
Stewart knows the media should not be engaging in this kind of destructive behaviour, that they should have a modicum of responsibility, that they should have presented facts instead of sucking up speculation and regurgitating it.
They either allowed themselves to be used or they did it for their own benefit … Stewart is concerned at the social costs of this.
Saying so was a public service.
He could have been more careful in how he did it, but he was angry and frustrated at having to hear more nonsense, more unproven allegations getting tossed around, and he was simply not prepared to stand for it another minute longer.
What is shocking here is that the BBC has refused to release the podcast and that The Record has unleashed the attack dogs on Stewart himself. There will be a clamour now to back him into a corner and make him apologise. It is a sterling example of why others in the profession in Scotland might have chosen not to get involved at all, despite their feelings of despondency over how the campaign to make Morelos a victim is starting to do real damage.
We should perhaps not be surprised that the one broadcast journalist who we recognise as being honest and impartial and willing to tell the truth as he sees it has been made out to be the bad guy here. This is the price for going against the views of the media industrial complex in Scotland, a press corps who know exactly what their “core audience” is.
Stewart is one of the few good men in the business.
It will be a dark day if the forces he’s butted heads with here are able to drive him out of his BBC role, and especially when you consider the parade of yes men, ex-Ibrox footballers, EBT recipients and halfwits who have traipsed through their Scottish offices down through the years.
Today everyone who cares about Scottish football owes a debt of gratitude to Michael Stewart, for directly confronting this issue.
He was trying to do justice to his role and to the organisation he was representing.
It will be a flat-out disgrace if he is punished for that.