The editor of BBC’s Newsnight has defended a contentious report disputing eyewitness accounts that a baby was thrown from a Grenfell Tower window and caught on the night of the blaze.
Reports of the dramatic rescue were shared by many news outlets, including HuffPost UK, after witnesses on the ground in the immediate aftermath of the fire told how they saw a mother desperately throwing her child from the tower.
But in the weeks and months since the devastating blaze, which killed at least 80 people, reports subsided and no family members or friends came forward to confirm the story.
Samira Lamrani was one of the witnesses who said she saw a baby being thrown from a ninth floor window.
She told HuffPost UK at the time: “There were screeches and somebody was gesturing that there was a lady at the window and as I looked up a lady was frantically gesturing and screaming, with her hands, from her body language, that she was about to throw the baby and she wrapped her baby in what seemed like a sheet or blanket and threw the young baby out of the window.”
Watch more of the interview below.
Another witness quoted at the time was George Clarke, who said he saw a man catch a child thrown out of the window from the eighth floor.
On Monday night, the BBC’s Newsnight programme aired a segment on why the Grenfell baby rescue probably never happened, interviewing psychologists and other witnesses from the scene.
The programme used physics to dispute the witnesses’ claims that a baby could have been thrown from such a height and survived.
Newsnight then filmed footage of a bowling ball being dropped from the top of a tower block and smashing when it hit the ground.
The Metropolitan Police said they had “no record of this incident”.
The programme sparked a backlash on social media, with some calling it “bizarre” and others accused the corporation of trying to “discredit” the testimonies of survivors.
Some accused Newsnight of trying to cast doubt on survivors’ accounts of the events from that night.
There have been reports of survivors being reluctant to identify themselves as residents of Grenfell, with some suggesting it is because they are being accused of “cashing in” on the tragedy.
One woman told Times columnist Hugo Rifkind on Twitter than such accusations are “rife”, adding that people are “weary (sic) who they tell now” because of the response they receive both online and offline.
BBC Newsight editor Ian Katz responded to some of the complainants on social media, defending the programme and saying the story of the Grenfell baby was a powerful example of how “false narratives become accepted as truth”.
The BBC said it would not give out any complaint figures, and offered no further comment to Katz’s responses on Twitter.
HuffPost UK has reached out to Lamrani for comment on this story.