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ITV pals stand by Alastair Stewart after his Twitter row exit

‘I adore him’: ITV’s Ranvir Singh with Alastair Stewart. She told Good Morning Britain that he was not racist

TV BOSSES faced a backlash from colleagues of Alastair Stewart yesterday after the ITN newsreader resigned over a Twitter race row.

Mary Nightingale appeared close to tears as she announced the news to viewers, while Julie Etchingham called Mr Stewart a ‘trusted friend’.

Mr Stewart, 67, admitted a ‘misjudgment which I regret’ for using a Shakespeare quote which included the phrase ‘angry ape’ in an exchange with Martin Shapland earlier this month. Mr Shapland has said an apology would have been ‘more than sufficient’.

Drawing a line: Martin Shapland, who was in Twitter debate with Mr Stewart, said apology would have been enough

Supporters of Mr Stewart started a petition for the reinstatement of Britain’s longest-serving newsreader which had 14,000 signatures last night.

Katie Derham called him a ‘very dear friend and colleague’ while Good Morning Britain political editor Ranvir Singh said she ‘adored’ him, adding: ‘I would never use the word racist and his name in the same sentence.’ BBC presenter Andrew Neil wrote: ‘Alastair Stewart — now the only person to be fired for quoting Shakespeare accurately.’

The newsreader, who joined ITN in 1980, had used the extract from Shakespeare’s Measure For Measure in a previous Twitter exchange with a white man. But during the January 13 row with Mr Shapland he replied only with a smiling emoji to a user who warned him that the quote had racial connotations.

Mr Shapland said he had received death threats since Mr Stewart quit. He said: ‘A private apology would have been more than sufficient. Mr Stewart has acknowledged the words he used were misjudged and expressed regret. I thank him for that.’

The former Lib Dem researcher won support from columnist Kate Maltby who watched the now-deleted exchange in real time. ‘It was much, much nastier than has been reported, it wasn’t just the “ape” quote,’ she tweeted.

ITN has not confirmed the reason Mr Stewart stepped down.