The BBC formally investigates Emily Maitlis and accuses her of “exceeding the target” with her monologue about Dominic Cummings and his boss Boris Johnson’s “blind loyalty”.
The company has been “ inundated ” with over 20,000 complaints about the Newsnight host, but this figure includes thousands of emails from its supporters who feel like they’ve been thrown under the bus.
Today, The Daily Telegraph reported that the BBC’s executive complaints team will launch an investigation and, once completed, is expected to conduct its own investigation after receiving 247 complaints within 24 hours.
Last night, the company made a second longer statement on Ms. Maitlis’s speech on Tuesday evening, alleging that the public had “fooled” in line because of Mr. Cummings’ assistant, No.10, who was with his family to Durham.
Her Newsnight colleagues are said to be in turmoil, but a senior BBC broadcaster said that “a bunch of BBC executives were very offended” by her words and released a new statement last night, reportedly signed by the director of news Fran Unsworth and current affairs chief Joanna Carr.
It said, “Our editorial guidelines allow us to make professional judgments, but not to express our views. The dividing line may be fine, but that’s what we want to say if we think we’ve crossed the target. ‘
Emily Maitlis was out with her banker husband Mark Gwynne in West London yesterday when the storm raged over her Dominic Cummings monologue
The Newsnight host spoke out on Tuesday’s show, claiming the audience had been made to feel ‘like fools’
The statement also insisted that Ms. Maitlis’s speech “ran the risk of giving the impression that the BBC was taking sides and voicing an opinion rather than being impartial.”
Emily Maitlis’ decade of BBC controversies
Ms. Maitlis used Newsnight to claim that coronavirus is a “major leveler” for society, saying that the poorest British are less likely to survive the pandemic.
She claimed on BBC Two that those most at risk of contracting the infection are in low-paying jobs, such as bus drivers, nurses and nursing home staff.
Matt Kilcoyne of the Adam Smith Institute claimed that her comments violated the impartiality guidelines, but her speech received high praise online.
BBC bosses bumped into Emily Maitlis after an internal investigation when viewers complained that she was ‘mocking and bullying’ at journalist Rod Liddle during a Brexit debate.
The BBC’s executive complaints department found that Ms Maitlis had been too “persistent and personal” during the nightly discussion on BBC2 on 15 July.
The incident, in which she told Mr. Liddle to “ get a grip ” and said his columns included “ casual racism, ” left her open to claims that she “ hadn’t been even, ” their report said.
Viewers claimed that the presenter’s attitude to Liddle was systematic for the way the BBC portrayed Voters’ Leave.
Emily Maitlis said that the BBC’s action to uphold a complaint against Naga Munchetty for calling Donald Trump over racism seemed “massively out of touch.”
She fully supported her to Munchetty, who had condemned the President’s call for four Democratic congressmen to return to their home countries.
The BBC criticized its own broadcaster Ms Maitlis for her performance in last week’s conservative leadership debate.
The BBC website released a statement saying the Newsnight presenter “was not for everyone.” But the BBC quickly removed the comment, insisting it was a mistake.
The erring comment was in response to complaints about Maitlis’ performance in last week’s conservative leadership debate.
Critics said the show turned into “ an hour of men yelling at each other unflinchingly, ” while another said the size of the BBC’s bar stool made Tory MPs look like “ a bunch of braying idiots. ”
Named as Newsnight’s new main presenter, the broadcaster said, “I don’t need to be liked”
She was caught on camera and visibly lost her temper with Labor MP Barry Gardiner on Newsnight. The host rolls her eyes while speaking and shakes her papers.
She urges male colleagues to take part in the gender pay gap – while the Corporation’s female staff rebelled.
Ms. Maitlis revealed that she was once told by a Corporation boss that she would have to appear on Strictly Come Dancing if she wanted to make progress. She previously claimed that it is more difficult for a woman to be taken seriously and be successful at the BBC
The newsreader was spotted wearing a charity wristband in support of Forces’ charity aid for heroes while presenting the news – despite the fact that presenters are banning such accessories.
Dr. David Starkey called her a “disgrace” after claiming that Britain had undergone a cultural shift and “the whites have gone black” during an interview with Ms. Maitlis.
More than 700 people complained to the BBC, and a further 103 contacted Ofcom arguing that the comments were in violation of the Racist Offense Directives.
Ms Maitlis is listed as one of the highest paid BBC presenters who considers herself freelancers to avoid paying 50 percent income tax.
Ms. Maitlis is said to have been so upset by her treatment that she asked for a free evening on Wednesday with reporter Katie Razzall.
She also thanked those who sent statements of support, who had already retweeted some positive comments about her opening speech – one of which described it as ‘savage brilliance’ and another said she ‘told what it is like’.
Another she shared said, “Emily Maitlis and Newsnight should be commended. There was no prejudice, only good reporting, research, challenge and accountability. Well done BBC and this time not only Radio 4. Good. More please. ”
Anger poured in from some outraged at the first broadcast, which they believed to be biased, while others were outraged by the company’s rapid downturn after it issued a statement saying Maitlis had broken the rules.
In an introduction to the current affairs program, Miss Maitlis opened with a very critical speech in which she claimed that the public felt “like fools” and accused Boris Johnson of showing “blind loyalty” to his advisor.
Mr. Cummings was in the middle of an argument after it emerged that he had traveled to his childhood home in Durham at the time of closing – 260 miles from his London home.
Mr Cummings had “broken the rules” and “the country can see that, and it is shocked that the government cannot,” said Ms Maitlis. The “public mood” is “one of anger, contempt, and fear,” she added.
Within 24 hours, the BBC released a statement stating that the program did not meet “standards of fair impartiality”, adding that staff had “been reminded of the guidelines”.
The controversy has sparked huge divisions within the BBC between those who support Newsnight and Ms Maitlis and others who believe she has broken the rules.
Yesterday, the presenter said she was “overwhelmed” by viewer support.
Although she was replaced on Wednesday evening by broadcaster Katie Razzall, she revealed it was her own decision not to appear.
A Newsnight insider said there was “complete surprise” and “anger” among the team at how BBC bosses handled the situation.
The “speed” at which the company made the statement was “unprecedented,” and there was “no involvement” between the news leaders and the program, they said. The bosses had acted “partially” by taking sides with the government, the source said.
Former Newsnight economics editor Paul Mason said yesterday that the decision made him “sick.”
But other respected broadcasters at the BBC struck, saying that Newsnight should follow the rules like everyone else.
A well-known journalist said it was not Newsnight’s role to “speak on behalf of the British people” – because there was not one unanimous view.
The source added, “There are the rules and you just have to find a way to deal with them.”
Another respected broadcaster said that “a bunch of BBC executives were very offended” by the speech.
Wednesday’s statement is said to have been signed by BBC news director Fran Unsworth and the head of broadcaster Joanna Carr was involved.
Some accused the BBC of sexism last night, noting that other male presenters who ‘edited’ were not dragged over the coals the same way.
A female BBC journalist said: “Many BBC women feel that there is a double standard in place and that they are kept at a higher level of account and appropriate impartiality than some of the high profile men. ‘
A petition entitled ‘Reinstate Emily Maitlis’, although not taken off the show, also drew attention to sexism. It said, “How can it be right and proper for a woman to be removed for telling the truth, while an unelected man seems bulletproof even after lying and repenting?”
Last night a Newsnight journalist said: ‘There is a legion of unanswered questions … The speed with which they (the BBC) reached this decision, which was completely unprecedented, with no involvement, almost no involvement, almost with the editor, let alone with the rest of the team. ‘
They said, “There is complete amazement and anger,” adding, “By acting this way, you are delegating everything in the program that night and coverage of the program in general.
Emily Maitlis tweeted that she asked to be released last night and thanked people for their support because some viewers said she had been reprimanded by the BBC for telling the facts of the story
But other long-acting BBC journalists supported bosses.
One of them said, “No one likes to see a colleague hang up like that to dry. That was pretty hard. If you work for the BBC, there are the rules and you just have to find a way to deal with it.
“Speaking on behalf of the British people when some British people disagree with what you say. It is not the whole British people. It was not really necessary. ‘
“We are in a time when we really need public support. I think it is a shame to divide people and anger at the BBC as an institution. ‘
Yesterday, Miss Maitlis tweeted, “Overwhelmed with all the kindness, messages – and support here – and I probably missed a lot of it. Thank you to all of us at Newsnight. ‘
The BBC’s statement on the episode stated that the program “should have done more to clarify that the introduction was a summary of the questions we were going to examine throughout the rest of the program, with all the accompanying evidence.”
It added, “As it was, we believe that the introduction we broadcast did not meet our standards of decent impartiality.”
Last year, the BBC got involved in an impartiality battle over BBC Breakfast presenter Naga Munchetty’s on-air comments about US President Donald Trump and racism.
Munchetty was initially believed to have violated the BBC’s editorial guidelines, but the ruling was later overturned.