Neil Oliver said he would “cheerfully risk” catching the virus and claimed there is “another Battle of Britain being fought just now”
A TV presenter’s role at a veterans’ charity is in doubt after he claimed those who disagree with politicians on Covid-19 restrictions are fighting “another Battle of Britain”.
Neil Oliver has faced criticism after suggesting on GB News that people who were criticised for not taking the Covid-19 vaccine were living under ‘tyranny’.
TFN was contacted by a reader who highlighted Oliver is an ambassador for charity Combat Stress, questioning whether he is still suitable for his role due to comparisons between coronavirus restrictions and the Second World War.
The charity supports former servicemen and women with mental health problems such as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), anxiety and depression.
Combat Stress has said it is waiting to speak to the presenter before determining his future association with the organisation.
Oliver, a former president of the National Trust for Scotland who rose to prominence after presenting BBC shows such as A History of Scotland and Coast, was one of the headline presenters announced when GB News arrived on the air this spring.
He has regularly criticised restrictions introduced during the pandemic, branding lockdown “the biggest mistake in world history”.
In a six-minute piece to camera which aired on the channel last week and has now amassed 200,000 views online, Oliver said he would risk catching Covid for freedom.
He said: "For the sake of freedom, yours and mine together, I will cheerfully risk catching Covid. That is a chance one among many that I am prepared to take and happily. Life is not safe.”
The speech also made several references to the sacrifices of those made during the war for freedom.
Oliver said: “Those Spitfires and Hurricanes were piloted by men, and also by boys not long out of school. They risked everything for freedom, mine and yours, the last full measure of devotion.
“I cannot be sure, but I don't think they fought and died, so a government might seize and hold that freedom like a deck of cards, dealing them out one by one to those deemed deserving.
“I think they fought for unconditional freedom for each man, woman, and child. That's what I think.
“I've been reading about people calling people who have chosen not to take the vaccine, 'plague rats'. I've read about people calling for those plague rats to be rounded up and locked away, out of sight.
“There's another Battle of Britain being fought now. It's being fought by a minority outgunned and shouted down by those who would [won't] accept freedom handed to them by MPs on condition that they do as they are told.
"That's not freedom. That is tyranny. And I for one will not live under that yoke, as I have done all my life, I salute the few. I hope to see you on the other side.”
Oliver has served as a celebrity ambassador for Combat Stress since 2017 - alongside actors Sir Patrick Stewart and Joanne Froggatt and Bake Off winner Sophie Faldo. When announced, he said he would use his profile to raise awareness of the charity’s work.
A spokesperson for the organisation said the charity disagreed with Oliver’s comments, and found the prospect of him “cheerfully” risking catching Covid alarming.
The statement said: “Neil Oliver has long been an ambassador for our work transforming the lives of veterans, for which we and the veterans are immensely grateful. While he is entitled to express his views, we cannot condone anyone taking unnecessary risks with their health and, through doing so, potentially affecting the health of others. Across the UK, there are those – including some of our veterans and staff – who are clinically extremely vulnerable, meaning Covid-19 could be fatal to them. The prospect of someone willingly spreading the disease is alarming.
“In addition, we strongly disagree with Mr Oliver comparing the heroes who defended this nation in the Battle of Britain to those who oppose the Covid restrictions. The Battle of Britain was one of the most significant victories in this nation’s history and we rightly honour and commemorate everyone who played a part in it. So too will we continue to honour and remember the NHS staff and frontline workers who bravely put their lives on the line during this pandemic to care for people in need and keep vital services running.
“We have reached out to Mr Oliver and are waiting to speak to him before determining his future association with Combat Stress.”