#VicarGate: Did Newsnight get an actor to pose as Brexiteer pastor guest Lynn Hayter?

Lynn Hayter. Image: BBC

Thursday, November 29, 2018

Newsnight has been accused of using an actor to play a Brexiteer vicar during a debate, claims which the BBC programme denies.

On November 26, pastor Lynn Hayter appeared on a panel on Newsnight in which she declared her support for Prime Minister Theresa May’s deal.

But some observant Twitter users spotted that the same woman was listed on acting agency websites, under the name Marina Hayter.


Acting career

Lynn/Marina Hayter's profile on Mandy.com, a film and TV networking site. Image: Mandy.com

On her profile on TV and film networking website Mandy, Ms Hayter’s acting and extra credits go back as far as 2006.

According to the list, she has appeared as an extra in Star Wars: The Force Awakens, Eastenders, Grantchester and a number of other well-known profiles.

talkRADIO called the listed contact Ray Knight Casting, who confirmed Ms Hayter is a client of theirs. A representative said that she is a pastor when she isn’t acting, and that her appearance on Newsnight was not arranged through them.

The BBC responded to the claims on social media, writing: “Claims that Lynn appeared on #newsnight as a paid actor are false.

“Lynn is a pastor and was a genuine participant of our Brexit debate. She carries out work as an extra using her middle name but this is not relevant to the capacity in which she appeared. #VicarGate”


'Right wing fraud'

However, some social media users were still not satisfied all was as it seemed.

Antonia Frances, the anti-Brexit Twitter user who posted the earlier tweet about Ms Hayter’s acting work, wrote: “@BBCNewsnight have said Lynn Hayter is a pastor. She is a right wing fraud allied with US evangelists. Here she is launching her church Seeds of Wealth”, along with a YouTube video in which Ms Hayter talks about a new venture of hers.

In the video posted in 2016, Ms Hayter can be seen describing Seeds for Wealth, and says “what I’ve been called to do… [is] unlock the seeds that are in each and every one of us, that will take you to a higher level that will release you into your financial freedom”.

She calls on viewers to get their own church leaders to invite her to preach, and name-checks Mike Murdock, a controversial American self-styled preacher at the Wisdom Center - an organisation that preaches the ‘prosperity gospel’.

This is a controversial belief originating in the US that some evangelical Christians subscribe to, that if they donate money to religious causes, they in turn will be rewarded with financial wellbeing.

According to several US news outlets, Murdock spent donations from his followers on himself, despite claiming they were for his ministry to carry out religious and community work.

The Seeds for Wealth website is currently inactive, and a Twitter account in Lynn Hayter's name has multiple retweets of Murdock - and some retweets of Donald Trump - on its timeline. 

talkRADIO has contacted Ms Hayter for comment.