Millionaire presenter Chris Evans said he phoned his elderly mother for advice on how to respond to tricky questions about his BBC salary.
The Radio 2 breakfast show and former Top Gear star said the 91-year-old former nurse told him to “earn what you can, when you can, while you can” during a telephone conversation in the wake of Wednesday’s revelations on pay to top talent.
Documents setting out the pay for staff on more than £150,000 showed a sizeable gap in the earnings of the corporation’s most well-known male and female presenters and actors, with Evans topping the list on more than £2 million while the highest paid woman was Strictly’s Claudia Winkleman on between £450,000-£499,999.
Evans acknowledged the backlash – which has included criticism of the BBC by Theresa May – after conducting an almost breathless round-up of Thursday’s newspapers, featuring headlines such as “Bloated Blokes Club” and “Awkward!”.
Evans said: “There’s lots of news in the papers about lots of different things, but also there’s quite a bit to say the least about the BBC, as you can imagine.
“Here’s a question – what do you say when confronted with the question: are you embarrassed about what you earn? Are you ashamed of what you earn? How do you react to that question when all you’re doing is coming to work every day like you have been for years to fulfil an agreed contract?
“Frankly, I had no idea what to say. I’ve been asked that question and so have many of my colleagues over the last 24 hours. I was asked that again this morning by a film crew as I ran into work.
“So here’s what I did. I called my mum. She’s 91, she’s very wise, she was in the war, and I asked her what she thought.
“She said: ‘Hang on a minute, love, let me just turn the telly down’, she was watching Columbo on catch-up at the time, as she often is.
“She said: ‘Tell them that your mum, who’s a nurse for most of her life, always told you after your dad died to try to find a job you loved, just like I love nursing, and earn what you can, when you can, while you can – which you did almost straight away from when you were a paper boy earning £1.50 a week for freezing your bits off and falling off your bike every two minutes, right through until what you’re doing now.
“‘And tell them – if your bosses don’t think you’re worth it one day, they’ll sort that out soon enough’.”
Evans added: “So there you are – I’m going with what my mum said and that’s it. I don’t think you tune in to this show to hear us talk about these things but I had to say that this morning and had to be right and proper that I said that.
“I thank my mum for advice, as always, I live by her word and I will die by her word.”