Clare Balding recalls being fat-shamed by Anne Robinson on The Weakest Link 

Clare Balding has reflected on a meeting with Anne Robinson, revealing the pair traded insults during an appearance on The Weakest Link. 

Anne, 77, was known for her acid tongue when she presented the BBC gameshow and is now said to be embroiled in a feud with her new co-stars on Countdown – Rachel Riley and Susie Dent. 

As Anne’s character has been called into question in recent weeks, Clare, 50, weighed in on her experience with the presenter. 

Clare – who appeared on The Weakest Link in 2005 – said on Gabby Logan’s The Mid-Point podcast: ‘Many years ago I did The Weakest Link when she was presenting it, and I got through to a head to head against Graeme Le Saux who as you will know is very very bright. Luckily I did okay and I won.

‘Through the course of it, Anne had been very cutting and had talked a bit about when I was an amateur jockey, and why did I give up? 

I said: “look at me, I got too heavy, right.” So then she would constantly use the line of “who ate too many cookies?” 

I said in the interview at the end: “Well, Anne used my weight as a stick to beat me with, but if that makes the crusty old cow happy, that’s fine!” 

‘I thought “they’ll never use that”… It goes out and they used that as the last line!

”Two days later I got a handwritten letter on lovely headed paper from Gloucestershire. “Dear Clare, I watched your edition of The Weakest Link. You sparkled, and your intelligence and wit…”. Da da da.

‘It was all really nice and I thought: “Thank God she didn’t see the interview at the end.” I turned over the page and it said: “I do hope we work together soon. With love, the Crusty Old Cow”.’

Clare’s comments come following reports Anne is at daggers drawn with her younger female counterparts Rachel Riley, 35, and Susie Dent, 56. 

Anne is said to have had Rachel’s microphone muted after complaining that the maths expert was ‘too chatty’ with contestants before filming. She’s also said to be irritated by Rachel’s timekeeping and habit of spending time on her mobile phone.

Rachel, for her part, is said to find Anne ‘difficult and mean’. She’s joined in this view by Dictionary Corner’s Susie.

There are also suspicions over the source of a story about Susie’s marriage break-up — which became public just weeks after Anne joined the show in June.

These have added to divisions between Anne and the show’s two experts. Matters are so fraught that more than one source associated with the show believes Anne will leave early next year when filming is completed on the second tranche of episodes. ‘They will have to fix the issue,’ one source told the Daily Mail.

But another perfectly source revealed Channel 4 has just offered a new contract to the Cruella of Countdown — which she signed four days ago. In other words, they are delighted with the ratings, Anne Robinson is going nowhere — and Rachel Riley and Susie Dent are just going to have to suck it up.

Simmering tensions came to a head over Rachel’s habit of chatting before filming starts. Anne is said to have requested that producers muted Rachel’s microphone to shut her up.

A source said: ‘Anne is famously known for two things: her dislike of noise and time-keeping. She’ll tolerate neither.

‘Anne also has tinnitus and cannot bear excess sound. Rachel, with her big heels and even bigger personality, can be quite loud on set. Rachel used to chat to contestants before every show and Anne found it hugely distracting so is said to have asked for Rachel’s microphone to be muted.

‘Anne felt she couldn’t do her job properly, or bond with the contestants to help them to relax, before the cameras started rolling. 

‘Poor old Rachel didn’t work it out for a couple of days and was babbling away quite happily before realising no one could hear her. When Anne said she wanted silence, Rachel turned around in front of the whole studio and stated publicly that she disagreed; that she didn’t find it necessary.

‘The tension was palpable. But for Anne, there’s nothing like a bit of good-natured rivalry to get the juices flowing.

‘Rachel is obviously a professional and never late for filming — she just cuts things more fine than perhaps stickler Anne would like. It’s safe to say there’s no love lost between these two, but it’s ratings gold.’ 

An insider said: ‘It is very much Rachel and Susie against Anne — a case of two camps.

‘Lots of crew are discussing what is going on. Rachel and Susie don’t care much for Anne and her rather grand ways and things have become pretty uncomfortable.

‘Anne likes to do things her way, while Rachel doesn’t go along with how she operates.

‘This has now led to little social interaction between them away from the cameras.’

A source revealed to the Mail that Anne has been excluded from social events involving the rest of the cast and crew. Apparently she finds Rachel ‘stuck up’.

Another source said: ‘Rachel doesn’t like her and nor does Susie. There is dissent in the camp.’

A third source said: ‘Anne is a stickler for time-keeping and doesn’t like seeing the younger crew members, including Rachel, on their phones, on Twitter, constantly. Basically the two women are worlds apart.

‘Anne actually thinks Rachel is incredibly quick-witted and hugely talented, but the trouble is they’re both alpha females and, alas, only one can be top dog.’

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