HUNDREDS of people complained to the BBC after Fiona Bruce appeared to minimise accusations of domestic abuse levelled against Stanley Johnson, the father of former prime minister Boris Johnson.

The incident happened on a Question Time broadcast on March 9, and led to Bruce stepping back from her role as an ambassador for the domestic abuse charity Refuge.

Panellists had been asked whether it was appropriate for Johnson to be nominated for a knighthood in his own son’s resignation honours list.

Journalist Yasmin Alibhai-Brown responded by saying that “he was a wife beater, Stanley Johnson, on record”.

Bruce then intervened to say: “I’m not disputing what you’re saying but just so everyone knows what this is referring to.

“So, Stanley Johnson’s wife spoke to a journalist, Tom Bower, and she said that Stanley Johnson had broken her nose and she had ended up in hospital as a result.

“Stanley Johnson has not commented publicly on that. Friends of his have said it did happen, it was a one-off.”

The intervention led to 854 complaints being sent to the BBC, according to the corporation’s latest complaints report.

Following the programme Bruce’s comments were described as “unnecessary and irresponsible” by the charity Women’s Aid and a Labour MP accused her of “trivialising” domestic violence.

However, according to The Telegraph, friends of Bruce say that she has been “hung out to dry” by the BBC as it was producers who provided her with the lines.

They added that the presenter has been left “devastated” by the response to her actions and called on the BBC to “better support its talent”.

Indeed, Bruce’s statement announcing her decision to step back from her role within Refuge appears to suggest that it was not her choice to intervene following Alibhai-Brown’s comment.

She said: “I was required to legally contextualise a question about Stanley Johnson.

"Those words have been taken as an expression of my own opinions which they are absolutely not, and as a minimising of domestic abuse, which I would never do.”

A BBC spokesperson said: “Domestic abuse is abhorrent, and we would never wish to suggest otherwise. When serious allegations are made on air against people or organisations, it is the job of BBC presenters to ensure that the context of those allegations – and any right of reply from the person or organisation – is given to the audience, and this is what Fiona was doing.

"She was not expressing any personal opinion about this situation.”

Elsewhere in the BBC's most recent complaints report, it shows some 108 complaints were received after Radio Four listeners felt the host "allowed biased comments by Nadine Dorries to go unchallenged".

On a broadcast on March 3, Dorries – a former culture secretary in Boris Johnson government – claimed that Sue Gray had not been impartial in her writing of a report into the Partygate scandal.

The Tory MP claimed Gray, who is set to join Keir Starmer's Labour as chief of staff, had not been impartial. She claimed the civil servant had been aiming to "bring down the Brexit-supporting prime minister".