In Depth

'Silly sausage' John Humphrys: his other memorable moments

Sex Pistols frontman Johnny Rotten surprises John Humphrys with sausage quip on BBC Radio 4 Today

John Humphrys was described as a "silly sausage" today for the first time on Radio 4, by Sex Pistols frontman John Lydon aka Johnny Rotten.

Interviewing the musician for the Today programme, Humphrys suggested Rotten had failed in his bid to change society. Chuckling, Rotten told him: "You put an awful lot on me, dontcha? No, you silly sausage, I never said that. I have never ever said I want to change society."

Calling Humphrys "mate", Rotten reprimanded him for trying to tell him what to do. "Don't tell be nothing," he said. "Don't tell me what to wear. Don't tell me what to think."

Humphrys was left to observe that he had "never been called a silly sausage before".

We look back at five other memorable moments for the veteran presenter...

Humphrys v George Entwistle

It took George Entwistle just 12 hours to resign as BBC director-general after a gruelling interview with Humphrys in November 2012. During the broadcast – described as the "dead man walking interview" by The Guardian – Entwistle revealed his ignorance about a Newsnight report that had wrongly implicated a Tory peer in allegations of sexual abuse. Humphrys later said: "Once you start an interview like that, the years of doing it take over and you don't think: 'That is my boss'. You just do your job. Then when it's over you think: 'Oh my God'." 

Humphrys v Jeremy Paxman

Humphrys went head to head with Jeremy Paxman in September 2012 in an interview described as a "clash of the media titans" by the Daily Mail. Paxman, who was also singled out in the BBC review as a "brutal boxer", went on Today to discuss the 50th anniversary of University Challenge. Paxman accused Humphrys of choosing bad questions and later made a jibe about his "advanced age", to which Humphrys replied: "My hearing's probably better than yours, but go on." Listeners were subjected to repeated interruptions and gasps of exasperation from both sides, as well as accusations of poor research and failure to pay attention.

Humphrys v Julian Assange

Shortly after Julian Assange was freed on bail by the High Court in December 2010, he was pressed to answer questions about his sexual preferences in an extraordinary interview with Humphrys. In the light of claims by two Swedish women, Humphrys suggested to the Wikileaks founder that he was a sexual predator who enjoyed having sex with young women, preferably without a condom. Assange replied: "A gentleman does not discuss his private life." Pressed to tell the listeners how many women he had slept with, Assange answered: "A gentleman does not count."

Humphrys v Tony Blair

It was a quote that haunted Tony Blair for years. Appealing to the public to trust him over the 1997 Formula One donations scandal, the then prime minister told Humphrys on BBC's On the Record: "I think most people who have dealt with me think I am a pretty straight sort of guy, and I am." Blair denied that a £1m donation to the Labour Party from F1 boss Bernie Ecclestone had led to motor racing's subsequent exemption from a tobacco sponsorship ban. However, the quote stuck and was rolled out by the media and political opponents every time Blair's integrity was questioned.

Humphrys v the Queen

Humphrys was half-jokingly accused of trying to "doorstep the Queen" when she visited the BBC headquarters last year. Any attempts to get an impromptu scoop about Prince Phillip's health were, however, rebuffed by the monarch. Humphrys told the Queen that her husband "was looking well yesterday", to which Her Majesty retorted: "That's because he's not ill." When Humphrys offered her a present – a DAB digital radio – the Queen looked at it and said: "I don't get an awful lot of chance to listen to the radio." Humphrys later laughed off accusations he was after a scoop, saying: "You can't doorstep the Queen. She wouldn't let you."

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