LONDON — The BBC’s director general has reversed the findings of a commission that ruled that Naga Munchetty, a veteran BBC news anchor, breached the company’s editorial guidelines when she criticized President Trump for saying that four female United States lawmakers should return to the “broken and crime infested places from which they came.”
The ruling from the BBC’s Executive Complaints Unit brought a furious reaction from supporters of Ms. Munchetty and set off a broader debate about racism and double standards at one of the world’s most prominent news organizations, which has found itself in the spotlight over a lack of parity in pay for men and women.
Although the director general, Tony Hall, said in a statement on Monday that “these are often finely balanced and difficult judgments,” he elected to overrule the unit’s finding.
The complaint against Ms. Munchetty, a host on the high-profile “BBC Breakfast” show, came after an exchange in July with her co-host, Dan Walker.
“Every time I have been told, as a woman of color, to go back to where I came from, that was embedded in racism,” said Ms. Munchetty, whose mother is from India and whose father is from Mauritius. “Now, I’m not accusing anyone of anything here, but you know what certain phrases mean.”
She went on to say that it had made her “absolutely furious that a man in that position thinks it’s O.K. to skirt the lines by using language like that.”
The Executive Complaints Unit said on Sept. 25 that its editorial guidelines allowed a personal response, but that Ms. Munchetty had gone too far because they “do not allow for journalists to give their opinions about the individual making the remarks or their motives for doing so — in this case President Trump.”
The reprimand of Ms. Munchetty, who had been hailed on social media for her comments in July, outraged journalists, members of Parliament, and fellow BBC staff members, who expressed their criticism online, and through open letters.
Sajid Javid, the chancellor of the Exchequer in the Conservative government, called the decision “ridiculous,” while Jeremy Corbyn, the leader of the opposition Labour Party, said that the company “must explain this astonishing decision.”
In an open letter that was published in The Guardian last week, a self-described group of broadcasters and journalists of color demanded that the decision be overturned, and urged the company to support its journalists “and acknowledge there can be no expectation of ‘impartiality’ over expressions and experiences of racism.”
Before Mr. Hall’s decision was made public, Seema Malhotra, a Labour member of Parliament, wrote a letter to him that was signed by more than 100 lawmakers.
“It is of particular concern that this decision has been reached when we are facing a rise in hate crime,” the letter said.
A petition asking the BBC to apologize for the company’s decision was also started on Monday.
Mr. Hall said that the impartiality of BBC journalism was fundamental, but, he added, “Racism is racism, and the BBC is not impartial on the topic.”
Ms. Munchetty was not available for comment.
The Guardian reported on Monday that the original complaint had been directed at Ms. Munchetty and her co-host, Mr. Walker, before being scaled back to focus solely on her, adding to the concerns among some critics that she had been a victim of double standards.
The BBC has previously been under fire on the grounds of discrimination. In January 2018, Carrie Gracie, the organization’s China editor at the time, resigned from her post in protest of pay inequality with her male colleagues, which she called “secretive and illegal.”
Ms. Gracie also weighed in on the debate prompted by the company’s treatment of Ms. Munchetty.
“Unease among #BBC journalists for whom ‘go back’ = racist,” Ms. Gracie wrote on Twitter. “Explain @BBCNaga reprimand please.”