BBC presenter Emily Maitlis has been reprimanded by the broadcaster for comments made on last night’s edition of flagship news and current affairs program Newsnight about a controversial lockdown trip taken by government aide Dominic Cummings.
Deadline has confirmed that Maitlis will not be hosting Wednesday’s edition of the program, which is due to go out at 22.45PM UK time (2:45PM PT). UK Editor Katie Razzall will instead be in the main chair.
The BBC is denying that it has enforced the change. A tweet from an account claiming to be Newsnight editor Esme Wren stated that Maitlis “hasn’t been replaced in response to the statement” and that Razzall was “part of the team”, inferring that a shift in host was not out of the ordinary.
Razzall also tweeted saying, “Just for the record, Emily Maitlis has not been asked by the BBC to take tonight off – and if I thought she had been, I certainly wouldn’t have agreed to present the show.”
However, Maitlis had signed off Tuesday’s edition with “I’ll be back tomorrow” and she is widely listed as hosting Wednesday’s program, including on the BBC’s website.
The BBC’s reaction, which included a written statement saying Maitlis’ comments “did not meet our standards of due impartiality”, has sparked a backlash on social media from prominent figures including Catastrophe creator Rob Delaney, writer Caitlin Moran, and actress Minnie Driver. Scroll down to see those.
As Deadline reported on Tuesday, Cummings stirred controversy when it emerged he had taken a 260-mile trip while his wife was displaying coronavirus symptoms, which drew widespread criticism as a flagrant breach of the UK’s lockdown policy.
Opening last night’s episode of Newsnight, Maitlis delivered a searing monologue to viewers in which she stated that Cummings “broke the rules”.
“The country can see that, and it’s shocking the government cannot. The longer ministers and the Prime Minister tell us he worked within them, the more angry the response to this scandal is likely to be,” she continued.
“He made those who struggled to keep to the rules to feel like fools, and has allowed many more to assume that they can flout them. The Prime Minister knows all this… but Boris Johnson has chosen to ignore it. Tonight we consider what this blind loyalty tells us about the workings of Number 10,” Maitlis added.
After the broadcast, some raised questions on social media about whether the words could be considered impartial, a key fundament of the BBC’s broadcasting code. Many more, however, praised Maitlis for her frank assessment of the situation. The highly-regarded presenter has gained a reputation for pulling no punches in her opening monologues on the show, including earlier this year when she took a swipe at the UK government for using “trite and misleading” language regarding COVID-19.
On Wednesday eve UK time, the BBC released a statement saying that it had reviewed Tuesday’s segment.
“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,” the statement read. “Our staff have been reminded of the guidelines.”
Here are some of the reactions to the news.
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