ENTERTAINMENT
28/05/2020 09:26 BST

Emily Maitlis Clarifies Reports She Was 'Replaced' On Newsnight Following Dominic Cummings Controversy

Some had wrongly concluded she'd been stood down after the BBC ruled the show had breached impartiality guidelines.

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Emily Maitlis has cleared up reports she was replaced on Wednesday night’s Newsnight, after the show was found to be in breach of the BBC’s impartiality guidelines

The presenter said she “asked for the night off” following her much-discussed  introduction to Tuesday’s show, in which she addressed the Dominic Cummings row. 

She said the prime minister’s chief adviser had “broken the rules” with his 260-mile lockdown trip to his parents’ house in Durham, noting that “the country can see that, and it’s shocked the Government cannot”.

BBC
Emily Maitlis on Tuesday's Newsnight

It was later reported Emily would not be fronting Wednesday night’s broadcast as expected, after the BBC issued a statement concluding that the monologue “did not meet our standards of due impartiality” adding that staff had “been reminded of the guidelines”. 

With Katie Razzall taking her place, it led some to wrongly conclude Emily had been temporarily stood down – something she has now clarified. 

Emily tweeted: “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 that she’d been “overwhelmed by all the kindness, messages - and support on [Twitter]”.

“A big thank you from us all at #newsnight,” she added. 

On Wednesday night, Katie Razzall said she “certainly wouldn’t have agreed to present the show” if she thought Emily had been stood down. However, she did not address the controversy during the show.

In her introduction to Tuesday’s show, Maitlis said “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 within them, the more angry the response to this scandal is likely to be.”

She added: “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 BBC later conducted a review of the episode and said the programme “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 said.

The broadcaster’s decision sparked criticism, most notably from Good Morning Britain presenter Piers Morgan, who branded the BBC statement “utterly disgraceful”, saying the corporation was “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 the decision made him “sick”.

The National Union of Journalists also criticised the BBC over its handling of the row, with general secretary Michelle Stanistreet saying: “At a time of national crisis, frank and fearless journalism that scrutinises and holds this Government to account is more necessary than ever.”

In a press conference on Monday, Cummings argued that his journey to Durham in March was justified as he sought to protect his family’s health.

But many questions remained unanswered, including over his subsequent drive to Barnard Castle which he said was to test his eyesight after it was affected by Covid-19.

Despite continued public unrest, the government has continued to back Cummings, with prime minister Boris Johnson refusing to fire his senior aide. 

Newsnight airs weeknights at 10.45pm on BBC Two.