Ofcom receives 247 complaints over Emily Maitlis' Cummings rant

BBC ‘receives EIGHTEEN THOUSAND complaints’ over Emily Maitlis’ ‘impartial’ rant about Dominic Cummings as presenter breaks cover with her husband after Newsnight editor insists she wasn’t taken off air

  • Ofcom has had hundreds of complaints but the BBC will not release any figures 
  • Newsnight reporter Katie Razzall stood in for Maitlis in last night’s programme  
  • BBC admitted Maitlis ‘did not meet standards of due impartiality’ on Newsnight 
  • She tweeted today: ‘So grateful to my friend and excellent colleague @katierazz for stepping in this evening . She did so because I asked for the night off’
  • BBC colleagues said to be ‘hacked off’ because ‘It’s one rule for her, it seems’ 

TV regulator Ofcom today revealed that Emily Maitlis’ monologue about Dominic Cummings and the ‘blind loyalty’ of his boss Boris Johnson while hosting Newsnight has sparked 247 complaints from viewers in 24 hours.

But the BBC is claimed to have had ten times as many complaints from viewers but is refusing to release any figures for up to a fortnight.

The Guido Fawkes blog has claimed the corporation has received 18,158 complaints and the figure is ‘still going up’, although that number could also include complaints sent in by Ms Maitlis’ supporters who have rushed to lambast the bosses who censured her yesterday. 

One senior BBC figure has told The Times that some of her colleagues were ‘hacked off’ by her behaviour, adding: ‘This is hardly a one -off. It’s one rule for her, it seems’. 

The star, 49, was out in west London with her investment banker husband Mark Gwynne today after asking her Newsnight bosses to let her skip last night’s show – hours after the corporation reprimanded her for a lack of impartiality.

Broadcasting watchdog Ofcom said today it has received 247 hundreds of complaints following the programme on Tuesday night – but will not launch any investigation until after the BBC has held its own formal one, a spokesman said.  

Ms Maitlis today insisted that she had ‘asked for a night off’ from presenting Newsnight rather than being taken off the air by her bosses, with reporter Katie Razzall standing in.   

She also thanked those who had sent messages of support having already retweeted a number of positive comments about her opening speech – with one describing it as ‘savage brilliance’ and another saying she ‘tells it how it is’.

Another she shared said: ‘Emily Maitlis and Newsnight should be praised. There was no bias, just good reporting, investigation, challenging and holding to account. Well done BBC and not just Radio 4 this time. Good. More please.’ 

Emily Maitlis was out with her banker husband Mark Gwynne in West London today as the storm raged over her Dominic Cummings monologue with 247 complaining to Ofcom

The BBC has been inundated with complaints about the Newsnight show – but also messages from Ms Maitlis’ supporters

Newsnight host Emily Maitlis spoke about the Dominic Cummings row on Tuesday’s show

Emily Maitlis tweeted that she had asked for the night off last night and thanked people for their support as some viewers said she had been reprimanded by the BBC for telling the facts of the story

April 2020 

Ms Maitlis used Newsnight to hit out at claims that coronavirus is a ‘great leveller’ for society as she said the poorest Britons are less likely to survive the pandemic.

She claimed on BBC Two that those most at risk of catching the infection are in low-paid jobs such as bus drivers, nurses and care home workers.

Matt Kilcoyne of the Adam Smith Institute claimed her comments breached impartiality guidelines, but her speech received widespread praise online. 

September 2019 

BBC bosses found againsst Emily Maitlis after an internal investigation  when viewers complained she was ‘sneering and bullying’ towards journalist Rod Liddle during a Brexit debate.

The executive complaints unit at the BBC determined that Ms Maitlis had been too ‘persistent and personal’ during the late night discussion on BBC2 on July 15.

The incident, where she told Mr Liddle to ‘get a grip’ and said his columns contained ‘casual racism’ left her open to claims she had ‘failed to be even-handed’, their report said. 

Viewers claimed the presenter’s attitude towards Liddle was systemic of the way the BBC has portrayed Leave voters.

August 2019 

Emily Maitlis said the BBC’s move to uphold a complaint against Naga Munchetty for calling out Donald Trump over racism looked ‘massively out of touch’.

She gave her full support to Munchetty, who had condemned the President’s call for four Democratic congresswomen to go back to their own countries. 

June 2019

The BBC criticised its own broadcaster Ms Maitlis about her performance in last week’s Conservative leadership debate.

A statement appeared on the BBC website saying that the Newsnight presenter was ‘not to everyone’s taste’. But the BBC quickly removed the comment, insisting it was a mistake. 

The errant comment was a response to complaints about Maitlis’s performance in last week’s Conservative leadership debate.

Critics said the show turned into ‘an hour of men shouting inanely over each other’, while another said the BBC’s bar-stool format made the Tory MPs look like ‘a bunch of braying morons’.

April 2019

The broadcaster is named as Newsnight’s new lead presenter and said: ‘I don’t have to be liked’

March 2019

She was caught on camera  visibly losing her patience with Labour MP Barry Gardiner on Newsnight. The host is seen rolling her eyes and shuffling her papers as he spoke.

July 2017

She urges male colleagues to join the gender pay gap fight – as women staff at the Corporation went into open revolt. 

January 2016 

Ms Maitlis revealed she was once told by a boss at the Corporation she would have to appear on Strictly Come Dancing if she wanted to progress. She previously claimed it is harder for a woman to be taken seriously and be successful at the BBC 

August 2011

The newscaster was spotted wearing a charity wristband in support of the Forces charity Help for Heroes while presenting the news – despite there being a ban on presenters wearing such accessories.

July 2011

Dr David Starkey called her a ‘disgrace’  after he claimed that Britain had undergone a cultural shift and “the whites have become black” during an interview with Ms Maitlis.

More than 700 people complained to the BBC and a further 103 contacted Ofcom claiming that the comments breached guidelines on racial offence. 

November 2009 

Ms Maitlis is named among a host of the BBC’s highest-paid presenters classing themselves as freelancers to avoid paying 50 per cent  income tax.

The broadcaster, 49, had accused the Prime Minister of ‘blind loyalty’ to his adviser in the on-going debate over Mr Cummings’s 260-mile trip from London to County Durham amid the coronavirus lockdown in March. 

The BBC said yesterday Ms Maitlis had breached the broadcaster’s impartiality rules when she asserted Boris Johnson’s chief aide had flouted the lockdown rules by driving to his parents’ home during lockdown and taking his family to a beauty spot on his wife’s birthday. 

In a 2.30am tweet this morning Ms Maitlis wrote: ‘So grateful to my friend and excellent colleague @katierazz for stepping in this evening . She did so because I asked for the night off  -knowing tonight’s prog would be in the most excellent hands’.  She added later: ‘Been overwhelmed by all the kindness, messages – and support on here – and I’ve probably missed much of it. A big thank you from us all at #newsnight’.  

Viewers noticed that her last-minute Newsnight replacement studiously ignored coverage of the presenter being reprimanded over her on-air address. Ms Razzall carefully avoided drawing attention to media coverage of the previous night’s broadcast when reviewing the headlines of today’s papers – even where her colleague’s face was plastered across the front page.

Maitlis was prominently featured on the front pages of the Telegraph and the Guardian, but Razzall merely mentioned: ‘You will see a few of them have a covering story about Newsnight related to coronavirus and Dominic Cummings.’

The BBC had confirmed earlier in the evening that Maitlis would be replaced by Razzall for the episode, despite being scheduled to present that night.  

The substitute host did not address the controversy throughout the programme other than to acknowledge some front pages included a story involving Newsnight. 

Newsnight editor Esme Wren said on Twitter Maitlis had not been ‘replaced tonight in response to the BBC statement’ and that the programme’s staff ‘work as a team throughout’.

Razzall also said her colleague had ‘not been asked by the BBC to take tonight off’, adding that she ‘certainly wouldn’t have agreed to present the show’ if she thought that was the case. 

In the controversial Newsnight opening, Maitlis said: ‘The longer ministers and the Prime Minister tell us he worked within [the rules], the more angry the response to this scandal is likely to be.

‘He was the man, remember, who always got the public mood, who tagged the lazy label of elite on those who disagreed.

‘He should understand that public mood now – one of fury, contempt and anguish.’ 

The BBC said it must ‘uphold the highest standards of due impartiality in its news output’ in its response to backlash over the monologue.

A statement added: ‘We’ve reviewed the entirety of last night’s Newsnight, including the opening section, and while we believe the programme contained fair, reasonable and rigorous journalism, we feel that we should have done more to make clear the introduction was a summary of the questions we would examine, with all the accompanying evidence, in the rest of the programme.  

‘As it was, we believe the introduction we broadcast did not meet our standards of due impartiality.’ 

The BBC also said staff had been ‘reminded of the guidelines’ around impartiality following the divisive broadcast. 

Some viewers criticised the BBC’s ‘weak response’ to the scandal on social media, with one user writing: ‘Not enough, Maitlis has been consistently biased and you simply cannot just remind her.’

‘Serious disciplinary action needs to be taken.’

Another added: ‘Not good enough, I’m afraid. It’s the second [time] Maitlis has broken impartiality rules.

‘She should now resign. After all, we pay her wages.’

Others spoke out in support of the presenter, claiming the controversial speech was a ‘brilliant, clear and thoughtful introduction.’ 

Good Morning Britain presenter Piers Morgan branded the BBC statement ‘utterly disgraceful’, adding that the BBC is ‘chucking one of its best journalists under the bus for telling the truth’.

His words were echoed by journalist and former Newsnight economics editor Paul Mason, who said that the decision made him ‘sick’.

He tweeted: ‘Every word Maitlis said was true: truth is the criterion of real journalism.’  

The issue over whether Mr Cummings broke any coronavirus lockdown rules has been the subject of fierce debate in recent days, with him denying any wrongdoing.

Her comments also come ahead of the conclusion of a police probe looking into complaints against him at the Durham Police and Crime Commissioner’s request.

It is Maitlis’s second impartiality row in as many months, after she was criticised in April for talking down claims that coronavirus is a ‘great leveller’ for society.

And in July 2019, she was criticised in an internal BBC investigation after some viewers complained she was ‘sneering and bullying’ towards journalist Rod Liddle.

Maitlis’ most recent comments attracted a huge backlash on social media, with one viewer tweeting: ‘BBC bare-faced bias’. 

Another wrote: ‘What a totally disgraceful speech from Emily Maitlis and the BBC Newsnight editorial team. 

‘Ofcom need to step in because the BBC are clearly breaking their own charter. This in nasty and not at all unbiased or impartial. The licence fee should be revoked, Boris Johnson.’

And a third said: ‘This is atrocious. This is a presenter’s opinion and using her position to give her viewpoint. We deserve as taxpayers to have impartial broadcasters.’ 

The admission was noticed by viewers on Twitter, who took to social media to comment on the ‘awkward’ segment

Boris Johnson’s chief political advisor Dominic Cummings arrives at Downing Street today

‘Dominic Cummings broke the rules, the country can see that’ What Emily Maitlis said on Newsnight

‘Dominic Cummings broke the rules, the country can see that, and it’s shocked the government cannot.

‘The longer ministers and the Prime Minister tell us he worked with them, the more angry the response to this scandal is likely to be.

‘He was the man, remember, who always got the public mood, he tagged the lazy label of ‘elite’ on those who disagreed.

‘He should understand that public mood now. One of fury, contempt and anguish.

‘He made those who struggled to keep to the rules feel like fools, and has allowed many more to assume they can now flout them.

‘The Prime Minister knows all this, but despite the resignation of one minister, growing unease from his backbenchers, a dramatic early warning from the polls, and a deep national disquiet, Boris Johnson has chosen to ignore it.’

‘Tonight we consider what this blind loyalty tells us about the workings of Number 10.’

Meanwhile, Tory MP Philip Davies told MailOnline: ‘It seems that the BBC, Channel 4 and Sky News long ago ended any pretence of impartial reporting and now believe their role is to indoctrinate everyone with their left-wing London centric metropolitan views. 

‘Emily Maitlis on Newsnight was a prime example of that. Ofcom seem to be asleep at the wheel and if they are not going to take action to ensure the impartiality of broadcasters then they should either make way for people who will or scrap the rules around impartiality so that there is no longer any pretence.’

Michael Fabricant, MP for Lichfield, added: ‘The BBC fought long and hard to stop Ofcom having and overview of the BBC. Now it is time for Ofcom to prove their worth. 

‘There needs to be a full inquiry into whether the BBC is reporting the news or whether it is dictating the news agenda and editorialising too presenting personal views.’

The programme’s introduction was also criticised by Chris Green, the Conservative MP for Bolton West, who said on Twitter that it ‘had a clear bias and had nothing to do with the BBC’s mission to inform and educate’.

He added: ‘We do not need Newsnight to behave as poor quality entertainment.’ 

However, Labour MP Dawn Butler tweeted: ‘A constituent emailed complaint about Emily Maitlis bias.

‘I’m still trying to work out what they meant. This is reporting facts. Have people gotten so used to biased reporting that they now fail to recognise factual reporting? All Cummings had to say was sorry and show some regret.’   

Viewers who wish to make a complaint about a BBC programme must do so to the corporation first, and can then complain to Ofcom if unsatisfied with the response.

The broadcaster was forced to publish a notice on its complaints portal due to the volume of messages it had received, alongside directing those who wished to complain to a mailing list ‘to be emailed the BBC’s response as soon as it is available.’   

Emily Maitlis was replaced tonight by Newsnight special correspondent Katie Razzall (pictured), despite still being listed as the presenter online

Some viewers have criticised the BBC’s ‘weak response’ to the scandal on social media, with one user writing: ‘Not enough, Maitlis has been consistently biased and you simply cannot just remind her’

Did Dominic Cummings break the coronavirus lockdown rules? 

Here are the varying opinions on how many breaches of lockdown rules Mr Cummings committed – if any:

None: Mr Cummings said he, his wife Mary Wakefield, and their son travelled by car from London to County Durham on the night of March 27 to be near his relatives. He said with Ms Wakefield having fallen ill, and with Downing Street reporting coronavirus cases, this was the best option to secure childcare should both he and Ms Wakefield become unwell. Mr Cummings indeed reported waking up ill the next morning, and was soon said by Downing Street to have coronavirus symptoms. Because of the childcare issue, Mr Cummings insisted his move was reasonable under the ‘exceptional circumstances’ clause of the lockdown guidelines. He said the 270-mile trip was completed without a stop.

One: However, many experts said the trip was still a definite breach. Professor Jackie Cassell, deputy dean of the Brighton and Sussex Medical School, said the rules were clear: people should not leave major cities to go to second homes in rural areas. Aside from potentially spreading coronavirus, it would place an extra burden on small local hospitals if admission was needed.

Two: Some reports said that after the Cummings family’s return to London on April 13, Mr Cummings made a second visit to Durham. The Observer and the Sunday Mirror quoted an unidentified witness as saying they saw Mr Cummings walking through Houghall Woods, near his parents’ property in Durham, and commenting: ‘Aren’t the bluebells lovely?’ Mr Cummings on Monday denied this second trip, and insists photos and data on his phone disprove the reports. In any event, Downing Street regularly refused to confirm where Mr Cummings was self-isolating after news broke that he was ill. 

THE BBC’S STATEMENT IN FULL 

The BBC must uphold the highest standards of due impartiality in its news output. 

We’ve reviewed the entirety of last night’s Newsnight, including the opening section, and while we believe the programme contained fair, reasonable and rigorous journalism, we feel that we should have done more to make clear the introduction was a summary of the questions we would examine, with all the accompanying evidence, in the rest of the programme. 

As it was, we believe the introduction we broadcast did not meet our standards of due impartiality. 

Our staff have been reminded of the guidelines.

Former Labour MP Kate Hoey tweeted today: ‘Understand that the BBC is being inundated with complaints about Emily Maitlis and Newsnight from last night. 

‘I have also put in a complaint and am sure many, many more will #BBCbias.’

And another said: ‘I have never complained about the BBC before but this incensed me. Putting a complaint in is easy and if anyone else is upset by this programme I recommend they do the same. 

‘Only takes a few minutes and surely our impartial news is worth five minutes of our time?’

Mr Cummings has been under fire since details of a 260-mile trip from London to the North East of England he made with his family emerged, with a string of Conservative MPs calling for his sacking. 

Last night, the scale of the Tory revolt over the row became clear as almost 40 of the party’s MPs called for him to resign, a minister quit and some warned of a ‘Black Wednesday’ crisis.

Amid growing anger from all wings of the party, Scotland Office minister Douglas Ross said he was quitting over the issue.

He said he could not defend Mr Cummings’s actions to constituents who had followed the ‘stay at home’ advice and denied themselves the chance to visit sick relatives. 

BBC defends Laura Kuenssberg over tweet ‘in defence’ of Dominic Cummings over the row

The BBC has defended political editor Laura Kuenssberg after it was claimed she tweeted ‘in defence’ of Dominic Cummings over the same row.

She responded directly to Daily Mirror political editor Pippa Crerar about the story on Friday, which some critics claimed was effectively a rebuttal of the story on behalf of Mr Cummings.

Kuenssberg tweeted: ‘Source says his trip was within guidelines as Cummings went to stay with his parents so they could help with childcare while he and his wife were ill – they insist no breach of lockdown.’

The BBC received an undisclosed number of complaints over the tweet, but said she made it clear she was reporting information from a source.

A BBC spokesman said today: ‘As the BBC’s political editor, Laura Kuenssberg’s role is to provide our audiences with an impartial analysis of key political developments, based on her knowledge and expert judgment, and she often uses social media as a tool in her day to day work.

‘We don’t consider that Laura was tweeting in defence of Dominic Cummings. Laura was simply reporting information from a source, and we believe this was clearly stated in her tweet.’

Mr Ross joined a list of at least 39 Tory MPs who by last night, had called for Mr Johnson’s most senior aide to leave Downing Street. 

The list includes four members of the executive of the backbench 1922 committee and 15 former ministers.

Many of the MPs calling for Mr Cummings’s departure told how they had received more than a thousand messages from constituents over the aide’s failure to abide by the lockdown, with warnings that party members were among the angriest.

One senior backbencher said: ‘This is not the usual suspects, it is our grassroots, our own members. If we don’t stop this now, it will be our Black Wednesday.’

Downing Street had hoped that Mr Cummings’s press conference on Monday would take the heat out of the row, but calls for him to go continued to grow as the public remained unconvinced by his explanation of his actions and refusal to apologise.  

The Prime Minister’s hopes that he had drawn a line under the crisis were shattered when Mr Ross became the first minister to quit over the row at about 9am yesterday. 

The under-secretary of state for Scotland said he could not ‘in good faith’ tell his constituents who could not say goodbye to loved ones while obeying lockdown rules that Mr Cummings had acted appropriately. 

On Maitlis’s Twitter feed, she retweeted a number of positive comments about her opening speech – with one describing it as ‘savage brilliance’ and another saying she ‘tells it how it is’

How Emily Maitlis began her career in the Far East and also used to work for Sky News

Emily Maitlis was born in Canada and raised in Sheffield. She began her career in news in the Far East, in the lead up to the Hong Kong Handover – and reported from Cambodia, China and the Philippines, before joining Sky News in the UK as a business correspondent.

Maitlis came to the BBC in 2001, initially as the main presenter of the revamped BBC London News, before joining Newsnight. She became the programme’s political editor in 2012, briefly, before moving into full time presenting for Newsnight and working on much of its US political coverage.

Alongside the BBC Two programme she has a primary role in covering the US, UK and European elections for the BBC. She has made documentaries for BBC Two, on Donald Trump, Nicolas Sarkozy, Mark Zuckerberg and, for Radio 4, on Madonna.

In March last year it was announced that she would be the new Newsnight presenter. She also writes regularly for UK newspapers and magazines.

Maitlis was widely praised for her sensational interview with Prince Andrew last year over his friendship with the late paedophile Jeffrey Epstein, which led to him stepping down from royal duties.

Section 4.1 of the BBC’s editorial guidelines states: ‘The BBC is committed to achieving due impartiality in all its output. This commitment is fundamental to our reputation, our values and the trust of audiences. 

‘The term ‘due’ means that the impartiality must be adequate and appropriate to the output, taking account of the subject and nature of the content, the likely audience expectation and any signposting that may influence that expectation.’ 

It comes after the BBC’s Panorama  investigation into government provision of PPE kit for NHS staff earlier this month has sparked 793 complaints over alleged bias.

The flagship current affairs programme featured interviews with a string of medical workers who were also Left-wing activists.

Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden wrote to BBC director general Tony Hall with his concerns about this and another incident, asking the TV chief to ‘uphold the highest standards in relation to integrity and impartiality’.

A number of doctors and nurses that Panorama decided to interview were long-time supporters of the Labour Party, but the programme was accused of giving the impression that they were neutral healthcare workers.

The programme, titled Has The Government Failed The NHS?, made a series of damaging claims about the Government’s handling of the Covid-19 crisis.T he BBC has previously defended the programme and those it interviewed.

How Emily Maitlis has a track record of impartiality rows at the BBC

Emily Maitlis has been involved in a number of impartiality rows in recent months, including where she has criticised her own employers. Here are some of the recent examples:

April 2020 – Criticises claims virus is a ‘great leveller’ for society

Maitlis hit out at claims that coronavirus is a ‘great leveller’ for society as she said the poorest Britons are less likely to survive the pandemic.

She claimed on BBC Two that those most at risk of catching the infection are in low-paid jobs such as bus drivers, nurses and care home workers.

Matt Kilcoyne of the Adam Smith Institute claimed her comments breached impartiality guidelines, but her speech received widespread praise online.

July 2019 – Claims Rod Liddle’s columns contain ‘casual racism’

Maitlis was criticised in an internal BBC investigation after some viewers complained she was ‘sneering and bullying’ towards journalist Rod Liddle.

The executive complaints unit at the corporation determined that she had been too ‘persistent and personal’ during the Brexit debate on BBC Two.

The incident, where she said his columns contained ‘casual racism’, left her open to claims she had ‘failed to be even-handed’, their report said.

September 2019 – Slams BBC over Naga Munchetty complaint

Maitlis said the BBC’s move to uphold a complaint against Naga Munchetty for calling out Donald Trump over racism looked ‘massively out of touch’.

She gave her full support to Munchetty, who had condemned the President’s call for four Democratic congresswomen to go back to their own countries.

The executive complaints Unit found against Munchetty over her remarks in an on-air discussion with her BBC Breakfast colleague Dan Walker last July.

She told the Cliveden Literary Festival: ‘My worry is that the complaints body looks as if it’s massively out of touch with what’s happening in the real world.’

Maitlis made the comments last September, before BBC director general Lord Hall reversed the decision to uphold the complaint two days later, saying: ‘Racism is racism and the BBC is not impartial on the topic’.

Ms Munchetty had said: ‘Every time I have been told, as a woman of colour, to go back to where I came from, that was embedded in racism.’

Source: Read Full Article