The BBC has apologised on air after a Mensa member appearing as a guest on one of its shows said anyone with an IQ of around 60 was ‘probably a carrot’.
Peter Baimbridge made the comment during a live discussion about IQ testing on BBC Breakfast.
A number of viewers contacted the programme to complain that the remark insulted people with learning difficulties.
Mr Baimbridge, an IQ test administrator, had been asked to explain why the testing was unreliable. After saying that most IQ tests would have ‘Mr and Mrs Average scoring 100’ he added that if your IQ is ‘somewhere around 60 then you are probably a carrot’.
The remark initially drew a smile from Louise Minchin, but she and co-host Charlie Stayt then read out some of the complaints on air.
At the end of the programme they apologised for the remarks and read out a personal apology from Mr Baimbridge. One viewer, an employee of learning disability charity Mencap, said she was ‘shocked’ and ‘disgusted’ by the comments.
Ciara Evans, who has a learning disability, said: ‘I am shocked that someone has described people like me as carrots.
‘We can achieve a lot in life. I live independently, have a full-time job and I’m getting married next year.
‘I am disgusted that he made this comment, and on behalf of all the people who have tweeted, rung and emailed Mencap to say how upset they are, I think Mensa should apologise and he should engage his brain before his mouth.
‘It seems that having a high IQ doesn’t make you a sensitive or caring human being.’ One of the complaints read out on air came from a Dr Sullivan who said: ‘As a clinical psychologist who has worked with many people who have an IQ below 60, I find these comments to be offensive and completely incorrect.
‘Such comments perpetuate the stigma around an individual with learning difficulties.’ According to Mencap, 1.5million people in the UK have a learning disability. A BBC spokesman said: ‘Clearly we do not condone the comments that were made in any way and sincerely apologise for the offence caused.’
Mensa, founded in 1946 as a society for people with a high IQ, apologised via its website for the ‘totally inappropriate’ comment which ‘does not represent the society’s official position or view’. It emphasised that Mr Baimbridge had apologised and had not intended any offence.
Chief executive John Stevenage added that Mensa ‘fully recognises that it is not what level of mental ability someone has but what they do with it that is the real achievement in life’.
Mensa, founded in England in 1946 by barrister Roland Berrill and scientist Dr Lance Ware, represents those whose IQs are in the ‘top two per cent of the population’.
The society, which welcomes members of any age, has the aim of providing ‘stimulating intellectual and social environment for its members’ and hoping to encourage ‘human intelligence for the benefit of humanity’.
The society also exists globally through umbrella organisation Mensa international.
High-profile members have included television presenter Carol Vorderman, anti-virus software pioneer John McAfee and Jimmy Savile.
Other recognisable members, known as Mensans, include director Quentin Tarantino and actors Goldie Hawn and Steve Martin.
Mr Bainbridge’s comment drew derision online, with users taking to Twitter to complain about the comparison between somebody with a low IQ and a carrot.
Rich Jobling wrote: ‘Proof that being clever can make you look stupid’, while Amanda Price said: ‘very concerned that the man from Mensa described someone with an IQ of 60 as being a carrot. This is highly offensive .’
Internet users described Mr Bainbridge’s remark as ‘disgraceful’ and ‘dreadful’, while one user, referring to himself as Markwell, wrote: ‘Mensa you have an idiot as an ambassador’.
Alison Hume reflected on the comment, saying ‘so much work still to do’.