On the election trail in 2001, Tony Blair was confronted outside Birmingham’s Queen Elizabeth Hospital by a woman called Sharon Storer, angry about the care her partner was receiving. As the Guardian reported at the time, “Ms Storer collared Mr Blair as he was entering the hospital earlier this week to complain that inadequate funding had affected her partner, Keith Sedgwick, who has cancer”. GPs backed Ms Storer.
There was much news coverage of the confrontation. What there was not was a leering revelation of Ms Storer’s political affiliation, or any publication of her contact details. The reporting of politicians being confronted by ordinary people, as we saw yesterday, has changed markedly in the intervening 18 years, and not necessarily for the better.
We know this after alleged Prime Minister Alexander Boris de Pfeffel Johnson visited Whipps Cross University Hospital in North London yesterday, and as the Guardian told readers, was “confronted by an angry father at a hospital who told him his baby daughter had nearly died because the ward on which she was treated was ‘not safe for children’ after years of austerity”. The father’s name was Omar Salem.
Salem accused Bozo of using the visit for a press opportunity. Bozo then claimed “there’s no press here”, which, as so often with our alleged PM, was not true. There was a camera crew filming the incident. The account added “Afterwards, a hospital doctor working on the ward, who was present at Johnson’s visit, backed up Salem’s account, telling the Guardian: ‘Obviously this was a totally contrived press opportunity - he was shown by far the nicest ward in the hospital’”. And it got worse.
“The Labour MP for Walthamstow, Stella Creasy, who was in the hospital at the time of the incident, echoed Salem’s concerns”. Labour’s Jon Ashworth piled in too. But the right-wing counter-attack was already in progress: the perpetually thirsty Paul Staines and his rabble at the Guido Fawkes blog discovered that Salem was a Labour activist, which was not difficult to do, because his Twitter bio says he is, er, a Labour activist.
And this is when many in the media, and mainly, to its utter shame, the BBC, not only gleefully recycled the, er, by-product from the Fawkes sewer, they jumped right in there too. It was a fact, and not a “Labour so we can discount it fact”, that Salem’s seven-day-old daughter had been gravely ill. It was a fact that the hospital was short of resources. It was a fact that Bozo The Clown had lied under pressure - again. But that no longer mattered.
Instead, the Beeb’s political editor Laura Kuenssberg Tweeted “Turns out the man who challenged the PM is also a Labour activist”. Oh well, not a problem then, eh Ms K? Quite the novel way of dealing with claims of anti-Labour bias. But then it got much, much worse, as she followed that with “This is him here”, pointing out his Twitter handle.
That’s as in pointing out his Twitter handle to her One Million Followers. In case anyone missed that, the BBC’s political editor, knowingly or otherwise, encouraged a pile-on against a bloke who nearly lost his baby daughter. The Beeb’s complaints line crashed under the weight of calls. Ms Kuenssberg was reported for targeted harassment.
The condemnation of both Ms K, and The Great Guido, was immediate. Simon Maginn responded “He's the father of a sick child. Is trying to discredit the father of a sick child one of those BBC Values I keep hearing about? Think you should delete this and apologise”.
Staines and his mob were asked “Are you suggesting his child nearly dying in hospital was just a set up so he could attack the Prime Minister who he had no idea would be visiting his daughters ward today?” The Pileus added “You guys are vile. He has a sick child and is in the hospital for his child. Furthermore his points were valid and fact he is a Labour activist is irrelevant”. Jim Felton had something to ask about this deflection.
“When you see Boris Johnson doing a shit interaction and then you dig for dirt on a man visiting a sick relative in the hospital do you feel ‘yeah I'm doing good for the world here, I'm a thoroughly decent bloke?’”. Russ had words for Ms Kuenssberg. “Oh good. Laura has found the distressed man with a very sick child who didn't want a press opportunity, and advertised his whereabouts to every troll on Twitter. Responsible journalism, meet Laura Kuenssberg. Laura, this is responsible journalism. You two should talk”.
Jim Felton returned to the fray: “We did it! We managed to turn a story about Johnson lying directly to camera about there not being any cameras into a dogpile on a worried man visiting his his sick kid in hospital! Good job everybody!” And Sean O’Neill, who is chief reporter at the Murdoch Times, concluded “Journalism is vital, it does hell of a lot of good, but there are days when I am utterly ashamed of some of the behaviour in my trade”.
It was bad enough for the BBC, but then it got worse still: Rob Burley, their editor of live political programmes, and someone many of us have a lot of time for, misread the situation horribly. “Those attacking Laura K for mentioning that the man arguing with Boris Johnson was a Labour activist need to do a thought experiment: would they think relevant if the politician were Jeremy Corbyn and the member of the public a Tory activist, however sincere? Of course”. Why, though? Remember Sharon Storer.
But he wasn’t finished. “The information about their political views would be part of the picture and it’s perfectly proper for journalists to provide that information. It’s not a judgement on the person’s sincerity or argument but a fact”. No it’s not. It really isn’t. A sick child is not a Tory or Labour sick child, but a sick child period.
Worse, Burley misses Ms Kuenssberg identifying Salem to her - note that number again - One Million Followers, enabling a pile-on. And worse still, as Simon Vessey noted, is the inexcusable closeness of the BBC and the Fawkes rabble: “Why is it acceptable that the BBC regularly use fascist gutter blog Guido Fawkes as a source? They are promoted on the BBC platform along with [Tom] Harwood, one of their nastiest employees. Why?”
I wouldn’t use that F-Word to describe The Great Guido, but the point stands. Harwood was the author of the Fawkes hit job which identified Salem as a Labour activist. He might look convincing in front of the camera, but he is a congenital liar, and as to political objectivity - forget it. The BBC, through admitting people like that to its fold, has jumped in the sewer with Staines and the vicious, nihilistic right-wing. And it has to stop.
We cannot have a situation where the Corporation’s political editor precipitates a pile-on against someone whose seven-day-old daughter nearly died, and another of its staff tries to justify the whole sorry mess. This is not journalism. This is inexcusable.
The BBC must stop excuse making, and start taking action. As in corrective action.
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Not to mention the fact that they're persisting in trying to make "Microphone-gate" a thing despite clear photographic evidence that its just the guys belt.
Nothing wrong with pointing out he's a Labour activist for two reasons 1) There's nothing wrong with being a Labour activist and 2) Omar doesn't keep it a secret, the opposite in fact.
Yeah, pointing people to his Twitter doesn't look good but remember Omar had already posted on his Twitter (the place where he tells all he is a Labour activist) that he had just had a go at Boris Johnson - it was already massively trending and had exploded all on it's own.
Yes, it brought out the trolls but it also brought out a massive amount of support.
"..pointing out his Twitter handle"
No, she pointed out a link to Omar's post about him meeting Johnson - something that he wanted sharing. The Omar's Twitter post that was "pointed out" even contained a link that he posted himself to a Mirror story that explains that he is a labour activist. Omar was sharing and promoting all this stuff - he wanted it out there.
Your first point is perhaps valid, but when set against the Beeb's general reluctance to identify other ad hoc or invited commentators - Harwood a prime example, but also anyone from the TPA, or whoever is populating the QT audience - it rather suggests bias, conscious or not, and I for one don't pay my TV license to get only one side of the story.
Your second argument isn't so good. It wasn't Omar Salem who brought out the trolls - some very nasty racist trolls, at that - it was Laura K herself, with the "This is him" tweet. With a few keystrokes, she set the worst of her one fricking million followers onto a very anxious father AND deflected completely from holding Johnson to account for (yet again, and how many times?) LYING.
Journalists are there to hold the powerful to account. Kuenssberg, Burley, and a frighteningly large number of powerful journalistic voices in support of them are literally failing at their jobs here.
Kuenssberg and BBC "News" have no credibility, integrity or honour.
They are riddled with far right toryism.
Nobody trusts a word vomiting from Kuenssberg's crooked mouth. She's a 100% fraud and propagandist.
The BBC's complaints page on its website crashed for several hours last night due to high demand. Her position is completely untenable, but they'll still keep her in place and defend her to the hilt. When the BBC Trust itself found that she has problems with accuracy when reporting on Labour and she's still in the role, then she's teflon coated.
Even if they'd sack her, there's still plenty of Tories with previous campaigning or work experience within the party working for the oh so impartial Auntie; Sarah Sands, Nick Robinson, Amol Rajan, Evan Davies, Andrew Neil...
Of course the irony is that Laura Kuenssberg is implying that Mr Salem's complaint isn't valid because he's Labour. Using that logic, the BBC's news is not valid because it is presented by Tories.
As for the BBC, all we need is to starve the beast. Ditch the TV Licence and watch catch-up TV from ITV Hub, All 4, Netflix et al. No TV Licence needed except BBC iPlayer -a TVL is needed to watch iPlayer. You don't need a licence to listen to the radio as the Radio Licence was abolished in 1971.
When does the BBC, or indeed other media sources, identify Tory or right-wing affiliations and links? This, once again, exposed the inbuilt bias mindset!
Managed to fire off a complaint this morning. Very swift response and very empty as per usual;
Laura Kuenssberg is a journalist that uses social media as part of her job.
Like many others, Laura quote-tweeted a thread by Omar Salem, who had written himself about his encounter with the PM on social media. He also describes himself as a Labour activist, so we don’t consider it was inaccurate to describe Mr Salem this way. Our editorial guidelines require us to give ‘appropriate information’ about the affiliations of the people involved in our News stories. Giving our audience as much information as possible enables them to make up their own minds and gives them the chance to hear the story in full. We also made it clear in our News coverage the reasons to why Mr Salem was at the hospital in the first place.
Mr Salem has stated on Twitter, “@bbclaurak is doing her job without fear or favour, which is a vital part of democracy.”
We strongly refute any suggestions that there was malicious intent behind Laura’s Tweets. News management have been made aware of your comments.
Love this: "alleged Prime Minister " - thanks for a good laugh!
I managed to write to the BBC late last night calling them out about impartiality and irresponsible behaviour from a BBC journalist towards a member of the general public. Plus they were completely avoiding the real issued - the state of the NHS which affects everyone unable to afford private health care, followed by the "alleged Prime Minister"'s incompetence lying on camera FFS!
Stop right there: “This is him here”.
This from a privately-educated (think Jena Brodie),Edinburgh and Georgetown Unis graduate.
Mine is Dublin. The High School would have insisted on proper, grammatical English: 'This is he, here."
So a double #Fail.
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