Emily Maitlis blasts BBC for apologising so quickly over her Dominic Cummings tirade ‘when corporation took up to three decades to investigate Martin Bashir’

  • Emily Maitlis has suggested the BBC, her employer, reconsider its priorities
  • The Newsnight presenter was rebuked following tirade on Dominic Cummings
  • In monologue she said advisor ‘broke the rules’ with Durham trip but No10 had offered ‘blind loyalty’
  • Maitlis hit back at quick apology, saying it could decades for investigation into Martin Bashir’s Diana interview to take place

Emily Maitlis has hit out at the BBC over how quick they were to apologise for her Newsnight rant on Dominic Cummings breaking lockdown rules when it took ‘up to three decades’ to investigate Martin Bashir.

The presenter, who has twice been rebuked by her employer for ‘breaches of impartiality’, accused the broadcaster of caving in to political pressure from Downing Street and suggested it reconsider its priorities. 

Maitlis received 23,000 complaints following a monologue on the show last year after it emerged Mr Cummings – then the Prime Minister’s chief advisor – had travelled from London to Durham during lockdown.

‘Dominic Cummings broke the rules. The country can see that and it’s shocked the Government cannot,’ she said at the start the programme.

Emily Maitlis has hit out at the BBC over how quick they were to apologise for her Newsnight rant on Dominic Cummings breaking lockdown rules when it took ‘up to three decades’ to investigate Martin Bashir

Newsnight presenter Emily Maitlis was found to have ‘breached grounds of impartiality’ following a monologue on the show last year in which she said Dominic Cummings – then the Prime Minister’s chief advisor – had ‘broke the rules’ of lockdown and that ‘The country can see that and it’s shocked the Government cannot’

‘The longer ministers and the PM tell us he worked within them, the more angry the response to the scandal is likely to be… Tonight we consider what this blind loyalty tells us about the workings of Number 10.’

Within 24 hours the BBC had issued an apology, saying the introduction ‘did not meet our standards of due impartiality’.

It is believed that chief among the complaints of the broadcast was Downing St, although Maitlis she does not know who made the call. 

But in an interview with Press Gazette, Maitlis compared the quick pursuit of complaints about her monologue ‘after a call from Number Ten’, to the 25 years it took for the BBC to expose Martin Bashir’s deception of a Princess Diana to gain an exclusive interview in 1995.

‘It’s funny to see something like [the Cummings apology statement] happen so quickly when a corporation can take up to three decades to investigate serious journalistic malfeasance and critical management failings in the Bashir investigation,’ she said. ‘So I think it’s all a question of priority, really, isn’t it?’ 

She added that she ‘did not regret’ the incident, saying no one has yet ‘explained to me what was journalistically inaccurate about that’. 

The BBC later received 36,000 complaints about its statement of apology, more than Maitlis did for the perceived breach.

Maitlis compared the quick pursuit of complaints about her monologue ‘ after a call from Number Ten’, to the 25 years it took for the BBC to expose Martin Bashir’s deception of a Princess Diana to gain an exclusive interview in 1995 

The journalist, 50, said she also believed her employer should have done more to defend Newsnight’s journalism and wider ‘editorial independence’. 

‘I think one of the most important things we can do is say, “Where are those accusations coming from?” If people shout “fake news”, or if they shout “no impartiality”, you look and you see if it’s coming from someone with the programme’s best [interests] at heart. Or, is it somebody who is driving their own agenda.’

In an internal investigation, the BBC’s Editorial Complaints Unit (ECU) said the tirade aimed at Mr Cummings ‘placed the presenter closer to one side of the debate’ 

Following the broadcast, bosses were quick to accept the programme had strayed beyond impartiality after viewers bombarded the BBC with complaints.

The ECU released its own verdict on the May 26 episode of Newsnight which reaffirmed the position that it broke strict rules governing impartiality and accuracy.  

However, the ECU considers the matter closed and said it will not be taking any further action for the breach.

A BBC spokesperson said: ‘Nothing is more important than our impartiality. All BBC journalists must abide by the BBC’s editorial guidelines and social media rules. There are no exceptions. We will be taking this up with Emily.’

Adding in reference to Maitlis’ suggestion the BBC issued their apologetic statement because of Downing Street pressure they said: ‘This is false. Decisions about the BBC’s editorial standards are made by the BBC.’

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