BBC Says Newsnight Breached Impartiality Guidelines With Emily Maitlis' Dominic Cummings Monologue

The corporation said that "staff have been reminded of the guidelines" following a review.

Newsnight did not meet BBC impartiality standards with Emily Maitlis’ monologue about the Dominic Cummings saga, the broadcaster has ruled.

The presenter opened Tuesday night’s edition of the current affairs programme by summarising the backlash to the government aide’s 260-mile lockdown trip to his parents’ house in Durham.

While many praised her for summing up the national mood, the BBC has since reviewed the episode and said it “did not meet our standards of due impartiality”.

Emily Maitlis opened Tuesday's Newsnight with a monologue about the backlash to Dominic Cummings' lockdown trip to Durham
Emily Maitlis opened Tuesday's Newsnight with a monologue about the backlash to Dominic Cummings' lockdown trip to Durham

The corporation said in a statement: “The BBC must uphold the highest standards of due impartiality in its news output. We’ve reviewed the entirety of last night’s Newsnight, including the opening section, and while we believe the programme contained fair, reasonable and rigorous journalism, we feel that we 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. Our staff have been reminded of the guidelines.”

Maitlis began the programme by simply saying: “Dominic Cummings broke the rules.”

She continued: “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.

“He was the man, remember, who always got the public mood, who tagged the lazy label of ‘elite’ on those who disagreed. He should understand that public mood one now: one of fury, contempt and anguish.

“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.”

She added: “The prime minister knows all this, and despite the resignation of one minister and growing unease from his backbenchers, a dramatic early warning from the polls, and a deep national disquiet, Boris Johnson has chosen to ignore it.”

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.


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