Newsreader Alastair Stewart steps down from ITN role amid Twitter race row

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Veteran newsreader Alastair Stewart was accused of calling a black Twitter user an "ape" just days before announcing his resignation due to what ITN called "errors of judgment" in his use of social media.

The 67-year-old, who joined ITV in 1980 and began fronting News at Ten nine years later, stepped down on Wednesday after what he described as a "misjudgement which I regret".

ITN would not provide any more information about the circumstances that led to Stewart's departure.

But earlier this month, Stewart and Twitter user Martin Shapland were involved in a heated debate on Twitter over the financial relationship between the taxpayer and the Crown.

At one point, the newsreader responded with a quote from Shakespeare's Measure for Measure: "But man, proud man, Dress'd in a little brief authority, Most ignorant of what he's most assur'd -, His glassy essence - like an angry ape Plays such fantastic tricks before high heaven. As makes the angels weep; who, with our spleens, Would all themselves laugh mortal."

Shapland retweeted the comment and called Stewart a "disgrace", writing: "Just an ITV newsreader referring to me as an ape with the cover of Shakespeare. Measure for measure, Alistair is a disgrace."

The newsreader's Twitter account has now been deactivated.

Michael Jermey, ITV director of news and current affairs, said in a statement: "Alastair has been a long-standing, familiar figure to viewers of ITV News, both reporting and presenting with distinction. We wish him the very best for the future."

His departure drew many tributes on Twitter, with Sky News' Adam Boulton calling him a "great TV journalist and friend", while fellow ITN presenter said he was a "trusted friend and guide to many of us".