Ben Fogle pens open letter to Guardian editor on 'privileged pain'

Ben Fogle reignites row with Guardian Editor-in-chief Katharine Viner over her 2019 ‘privileged pain’ jibe about David Cameron’s late son Ivan – and urges her to ‘be careful with words’ in the wake of Cristiano Ronaldo’s loss

  • Ben Fogle, 48, published open letter to Guardian Editor-in-chief Katharine Viner urging her to meet him to discuss the work of UK child bereavement charities 
  • Referenced Manchester United star Ronaldo, 37, and his 28-year-old partner, Georgina Rodriguez, who announced death of their baby son on Monday night
  • In 2019, Viner wrote an article using the words ‘privileged pain’ while describing the loss of David Cameron and Samantha Cameron’s son Ivan in 2009
  • Fogle said he ‘wanted to die’ when his own son Willem was stillborn at 33 weeks in 2014 – and urged Viner to ‘be careful’ when describing Ronaldo’s loss 

Television star Ben Fogle has penned an emotional open letter to the Guardian’s Editor-in-chief following the loss of Cristiano Ronaldo’s baby boy – two years after she used the term ‘privileged pain’ when commenting on the death of David Cameron’s son Ivan.

Manchester United star Ronaldo, 37, and his 28-year-old partner, Georgina Rodriguez, announced on Monday night that one of their twins, a baby boy, had died. 

Fogle, 48, whose own son Willem was stillborn at 33 weeks in 2014, published the emotive post on his Instagram account yesterday, referencing the widely criticised article by Katharine Viner, which was published on the Guardian website in September 2019. 

In the column, which she later apologised to the Camerons for, Viner claimed the couple had experienced the ‘better functioning and better funded part’ of the NHS in the care their late son received because of David Cameron’s position in UK politics at the time. 

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Ben Fogle, 48, published open letter to Guardian Editor-in-chief Katharine Viner urging her to meet him to discuss the work of UK child bereavement charities

In 2019, Viner wrote an article using the words ‘privileged pain’ while describing the loss of David Cameron and Samantha Cameron’s son Ivan in 2009

The post referenced Manchester United star Ronaldo, 37, and his 28-year-old partner, Georgina Rodriguez, who announced the death of their son on Monday night

The Camerons’ first-born child was born with Ohtahara syndrome, a rare neurological disorder that would see him suffer 20 to 30 seizures a day. He died at the age of six.

Fogle said that while he accepted that Viner had apologised at the time, he had ‘ongoing anger’ at her, claiming she continues to refuse to meet with him to discuss the work of stillbirth charities Tommy’s and Child Bereavement UK. 

In the four-post letter, which he personally addressed to Viner, he wrote: ‘Your despicable article was a trigger for many “privileged” individuals, like myself who have also lost a child.’

He added: ‘After the tragic news that Ronaldo and his wife [SIC] Georgina have lost his son, as a fellow grieving “privileged” father, I implore you to be careful with your words.’

The TV star said that when the family lost Willem, he had felt like he ‘wanted to die’ and said that while he didn’t seriously consider taking his own life, the words ‘illustrate how I felt emotionally’. 

Describing his own grief, he said: ‘It is a pain I have lived with for many years. My little Willem would be 7 now. A proper little boy. Running with his brother and sister, getting up to mischief, being my mate.’ 

The Camerons with their first-born child, Ivan, in 2008. He was born with Ohtahara syndrome, a rare neurological disorder that would see him suffer 20 to 30 seizures a day. He died at the age of six in 2009

Fogle, pictured in 2021 with his wife Marina, said he ‘wanted to die’ when his own son Willem was stillborn at 33 weeks in 2014 – and urged Viner to ‘be careful’ when describing Ronaldo’s loss 

In 2019, former Prime Minister Cameron spoke candidly about the heartbreak he and wife Samantha suffered after the death of losing their son Ivan, six, describing the ensuing grief as ‘torture’.

Mr Cameron, who has three other children, Nancy, 17, Arthur, 15 and Florence, 11, revealed in his memoirs in 2019 the devastation the family endured during the final moments of Ivan’s life, saying it was ‘almost too painful to relate’ – and sharing his own frustrations at not having the ‘patience and selflessness’ that’s required to be a ‘great carer’. 

MailOnline has contacted the Guardian for comment.

Last week, Fogle admitted white men have ‘dominated’ the TV landscape but said he hopes the next generation of presenters will get opportunities based on talent, rather than diversity box-ticking.

Fogle, 48, who found fame after his appearance on reality show Castaway 2000, said there are ‘plenty of brilliant presenters’ from diverse backgrounds who need a ‘break out opportunity’ but said they need to have the right skills and talent.

‘When I use the term “talent,” I think there needs to be a talent there. It can’t just be that you tick the box,’ he said in an interview with FEMAIL. 

‘I think we definitely need to give more opportunities to those who have been previously invisible or silent. They also have to have the talent to match who they are and where they have come from. 

‘There will be plenty of brilliant presenters out there who need a break out opportunity and I hope that those come along. And I think you have to have something to be on television. You need charisma, a thoughtfulness, you need an open mind, all of those things.’

He added: ‘People like me, male, white presenters, have dominated the TV scape for many, many years,’ he said, adding that there are also ‘plenty of great female voices, people of ethnic diversity, minority groups, people from other countries, different religions,’ that need to be heard.

Fogle was speaking ahead of his new programme Ben Fogle & The Lost City, airing next Thursday, which sees the presenter visit an unincorporated Californian community known as Slab City, or The Slabs.

In a recent interview with Femail, Ben Fogle admitted white men have ‘dominated’ the TV landscape but said he hopes the next generation of presenters will get opportunities based on talent, rather than diversity box-ticking. Above, Fogle in his new programme Ben Fogle & The Lost City, airing onThursday

Fogle got his big break when he appeared on the BBC’ Castaway 2000, an observational show where 36 participants tried to build a community on the remote Scottish of Taransay. He said it is far more difficult for today’s reality stars to outlast their 15 minutes of fame and forge a career

In his new show, Ben travelled to California to meet the settlers who have formed Slab City in the Californian desert, pictured

Since 1961, Slab City has been renounced by the government of California and has become a refuge for drifters, many struggling with addiction or hiding from the law over various crimes, dubbing itself ‘the last free place in America.’

The presenter said he felt ‘safe’, partly because he is a white man, and said there are some female presenters might not feel the same if they were put in the same position.  

‘I know some very fearless presenters who would probably be offended by me saying that,’ he said. 

‘But there is a lot of crime there, and there are people who are hiding from the law. You can’t hide away from that. So perhaps I felt safer because of who I am,’ he said, alluding to the fact the was a white man.’

Fogle added he was fortunate to ‘outlast’ his 15 minutes of fame after Castaway but insisted he has worked hard to hone his skills in the decades since. 

He admitted it is much more difficult for today’s reality TV stars to build a lasting career. 

‘There are million of shows now. To stand out and outlive your 15 minutes of fame now is a very, very difficult thing to do,’ he said.

‘And if we go back the timeline of the past 20 years, I’d love you to name any reality show people who have stood the test of time. There aren’t that many.’

The presenter said it was ‘complete luck that [he] was in the right place at the right time and that his success was due to a lot of ‘serendipity.’ 

He continued: ‘I don’t want to own my own trumpet, but I do think I have nurtured and built my TV presenting skills over the last 20 years which is why I’m still doing it.

‘Not because I was on a reality TV show, not because some people recognise me, not because I’m a Z-list celebrity but because I have genuine empathy.’

The presenter said he’s found his place in the world of television and hopes that the TV industry will focus on ‘honesty, integrity, curiosity and open-mindedness’ going forward.  

‘A lot of television obsesses over ego and this word “celebrity”,’ he said

‘I don’t even like the word celebrity, I think it quite offensive to be called a celebrity because it insinuates that you have no more substance to you, just being someone who is recognisable.’

The presenter added he is ‘proud’ that the people who recognise him in the streets ask questions about his shows and the people who have been on it.  

‘That shows they know me because of the substance of my shows, not because of my ugly face,’ he said.  

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