The Tory leadership frontrunner has made a virtue of her loyalty to the former prime minister after not joining the mass resignations from his cabinet.
Appearing at a hustings with Conservative members on Tuesday, she was asked by TalkTV’s Tom Newton Dunn, who was hosting the event: “Are you clear that Boris Johnson’s downfall was his own making or someone else’s?”
After some in the audience in Darlington chimed in with “the media”, Truss responded: “It sounds like you are being blamed, Tom? Who am I to disagree with this excellent audience?”
Asked to clarify her view, she outlined that she was a “loyal cabinet minister”, but did not directly answer the question, saying “what is done is done and we are where we are”.
The quip drew a round of applause.
It was one of three explicit criticisms the foreign secretary levelled at the media. In another, she accused Newton Dunn – The Sun’s ex-political editor – of asking a “left-wing” question after being quizzed on why she’s ruling out extra help for people to pay soaring energy bills. She also accused “some of the media” of trying to “talk our country down”.
Later, as her interview and questions from the audience wrapped up, Truss was caught on the microphone saying: “I’m sorry I was mean about the media, Tom.”
Newton Dunn replied: “It’s cheap, and you know it.”
Johnson resigned in July after being told by senior Cabinet ministers that he no longer had their support, which came after almost 60 Tory MPs quit their government posts.
They were moved to act after the prime minister admitted that he knew about past sexual harassment accusations made against Conservative MP Chris Pincher – and had chosen him for an influential government position anyway.
It was the latest in a long line of controversies that dogged Johnson, who was fined by the police for breaking his own lockdown rules.
At the hustings debate, Truss also said she “fundamentally” disagrees with “putting up taxes and then also giving out benefits” to help with the rising cost of living, as she lambasted cash handouts as “Gordon Brown economics”.
Rival Rishi Sunak was also asked about Johnson, with an audience member suggesting the ex-chancellor would regret resigning as “he who wields the dagger will never inherit the crown”.
Sunak said it was “simply wrong to say I wielded the dagger because it wasn’t just me who feels enough was enough”.
In contrast to Truss, he said: “The government was on the wrong side of yet another ethical decision. And 60 members of parliament also felt enough was enough.”
Sunak meanwhile suggested he would not offer further cash payments to every household and would instead target support at the most vulnerable.