WOULD the last lad to leave GB News please turn out the lights.

The channel is in a state of disarray after Laurence Fox’s much-criticised comments about journalist Ava Evans – although given the broadcaster’s usual shoddy standard of output, you’d be forgiven for not detecting much difference on air.

Off-air, however, the wheels are well and truly coming off.

In case you are wondering just how bad things are for Fox, his antics saw him described as a “repulsive individual” by notable feminist icon Piers Morgan.

Fox has been suspended pending investigation, along with fellow GB News presenter Dan Wootton. On social media, Wootton’s suspension has drawn some apt comparisons to Al Capone getting done for tax evasion.

It does seem as though the channel is using his shambolic handling of Fox’s misogyny as an excuse to quietly get rid of him, after an extensive investigation by the Byline Times revealed allegations that Wootton had used fake online identities to obtain compromising sexual material on a number of men.

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In the wake of the Fox controversy, Mail Online announced that it had sacked Wootton “following events this week”.

Late last week, another presenter, the Rev Calvin Robinson, was also suspended, after saying he would not appear on Wootton’s show unless it was presented by Wootton himself (or presumably one of his aliases.)

Ofcom is investigating whether the broadcaster broke any rules, which brings the tally of investigations being conducted by the regulator into the channel up to 12.

It is perhaps fitting that the comment that has put GB News into crisis mode involved the kind of crude sexism that so many of its contributors are famous for. The fact it was predictable, given the characters involved in the cowboy news outlet, doesn’t make it any less serious.

Fox didn’t robustly criticise Evans’s intellect or opinions. Instead, his tirade culminated in what he – given the smug giggling – apparently thought was a zinger of a line about whether or not he personally found her attractive enough to have sex with.

It was a lazy, sexist attack that told us nothing at all about Evans’s professional abilities but everything we could possibly need to know about Fox.

Since the incident, the journalist has found herself the target of an online mob of Fox’s sycophants and fanboys. She described Fox’s comments about her as demeaning and dehumanising and says she has received threats since the incident that made her fear for her safety.

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It’s impossible to imagine how difficult this last week must have been for her. Nothing can prepare you for the kind of onslaught that comes with being involved in the big news story of the day.

For that sad corner of the internet where trolls and anti-woke worriers lurk, Fox’s comments served as an invitation. He must surely have known when he posed the question: “Who’d wanna shag that?” that hundreds of his more rabid fans with nothing else to occupy their time would take to Twitter to answer accordingly.

Being on the receiving end of lurid commentary by strangers about your body would be a disorienting and upsetting experience for anybody.

Objectification and misogyny shouldn’t just be par for the course for female journalists. It doesn’t matter if the journalist is a regular on TV or confident in expressing her opinions. It is not part of the job and it shouldn’t become one.

Despite what Fox’s defenders might have you believe, this controversy has absolutely nothing to do with free speech.

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The fact he felt confident to behave as he did and content that he could do so without challenge shows just how far the free speech debate has distorted the limits of acceptable conduct.

Anti-woke, right-wing culture warriors seem to be labouring under the misapprehension that anything they say – however silly, sexist, distasteful or dangerous it may be – is beyond challenge and any natural consequences that flow from it are somehow an attack on their right to free speech.

In a rambling and self-indulgent video posted on his Twitter page, Fox offered a heavily caveated apology to Evans. A quick glance at his Twitter feed will have you doubting the sincerity with which he offered that apology.

As GB News tries to belatedly clean up its act, it faces a period of painful self-reflection as it works to resolve its current identity crisis.

A good start would be coming to a decision about whether or not it actually wants to be a news outlet and adhere to all the boring rules and regulations that come with it.

If so, it’s long past time that the channel ditched the conspiracy theorists, shock-jocks and cranks and employed some actual journalists.