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Stacey Dooley and Matt Haig among those to show support for Emily Maitlis after BBC impartiality breach

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Lauren Geall
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Emily Maitlis

After a viral clip of Emily Maitlis criticising the government’s response to the ongoing Dominic Cummings scandal was concluded to breach BBC impartiality guidelines, a number of famous names have shown their support for the political journalist’s words.

Political journalist and Newsnight presenter Emily Maitlis has made a name for herself for her straight-talking, no-nonsense approach to the news, and no situation has made her confident and powerful stance so clear as the coronavirus pandemic.

Over the last couple of weeks Maitlis has made headlines for her powerful, clear cut speeches on the government’s handling of the crisis, attracting widespread praise for her ability to shut down misleading narratives and challenging the “muddled messaging” which has cost lives.

But it was her latest speech – one in which she challenged the government’s response to the ongoing Dominic Cummings scandal – which has attracted the most attention. The 53 second clip, which sees Maitlis challenge Boris Johnson for choosing to “ignore” the transgression of one of his closest advisors, went viral on social media yesterday.

Despite many praising Maitlis for summing up “the nation’s increasing anger” at the government’s response, there were also those who accused her of breaching the BBC’s impartiality guidelines, leading the broadcaster to launch a review. The BBC later confirmed the speech had in fact breached their rules, and said staff had been “reminded of the guidelines”. 

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However, this wasn’t the end of the whole debacle. After it was revealed that Maitlis would not be presenting last night’s episode of Newsnight, a number of high-profile journalists and public figures have come forward to throw their support behind Maitlis and her words on the Cummings situation. 

And although it was speculated that Maitlis had been removed from the show while investigations into the impartiality breach took place, Maitlis herself later revealed she had asked for the night off – but that didn’t stop people taking to social media to express their concern about the situation.

“Just want to say that I think Emily @Maitlis is a brilliant journalist who is never scared to trample on anyone’s political allegiances in search of the true context,” wrote author and mental health advocate Matt Haig. “She is rare and a national treasure.”

“Not OK to do this to @maitlis,” wrote Good Morning Britain presenter Susanna Reid, quoting an article from The Guardian which suggested Maitlis had been “replaced” for last night’s Newsnight episode. 

“This is unbelievable,” added activist Gina Miller. “@Maitlis gets suspended for having the courage to stand up for our public health and honestly whilst #DominicCummings keeps his job for not only thinking of himself, but putting himself above the law.”

Nigella Lawson simply wrote: “Well, it makes sense in this world that it’s @maitlis, the voice of sanity, who’s the one punished.”

And documentarian Stacey Dooley added: “Emily has been reprimanded. And Dominic Cummings hasn’t.”

In a statement published to Twitter yesterday, the BBC announced that they had concluded Maitlis’ opener had breached impartiality standards after a review of the programme.

“The BBC must uphold the highest standards of due impartiality in its news output,” the statement reads. “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.”

Taking to Twitter this morning to say thank you for last night’s outpouring of support, Maitlis wrote: “Been overwhelmed by all the kindness, messages – and support on here – and I’ve probably missed much of it.

“A big thank you from us all at #Newsnight.”

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