After BBC political editor Laura Kuenssberg relayed the false claim that a Labour activist had assaulted Health Secretary Matt Hancock’s SpAd outside Leeds General Infirmary, one might have thought that others at the Corporation would stop and think before rushing to her defence; after all, this is not her first such lapse. But that would be to discount Jeremy Vine, who has leapt in with both feet in his criticism of those calling her out.
Laura Kuenssberg ((c) Guardian)
“The ceaseless bullying of my colleague [Laura Kuenssberg] on Twitter is just disgusting. She is a fine journalist: impartial, indefatigable” he claimed, somehow missing that on-air resignation stunt (aka “Making the news on the Daily Politics”), taking dictation from Vote Leave main man Matthew Elliott over the campaign’s lawbreaking, and the small matter of the BBC Trust passing adverse comment upon a report on Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn.
Jeremy Vine - knee-jerk defensiveness
On that last point, the Guardian reported that “The broadcaster’s regulator concluded that a Laura Kuenssberg report for the News at Six in November 2015 breached the broadcaster’s impartiality and accuracy guidelines, in a ruling that triggered an angry response from the corporation’s director of news”. But “James Harding, the director of BBC news, rejected the Trust’s ruling and called Kuenssberg ‘an outstanding journalist and political editor with the utmost integrity and professionalism’”.
In other words, the same tone-deaf defensiveness exhibited by Vine today. Not addressing the issue and the failings, just dismissiveness. Ian Fraser, for one, was unimpressed. “Jeremy, you may like to characterise it as ‘bullying’. Yesterday it was mostly legitimate criticism for spreading a fake story to her 1.1m followers. Twitter users with far fewer followers than Laura played a part in getting the falsehoods corrected”.
Chris Smith was even more unimpressed. “Sorry Mr Vine. She tweeted out lies fed to her by Tory spin merchants without any attempt to check. The claims were libellous. All the criticism of her and Peston is entirely justified”. Peter Jukes added “I've met Laura, and I like her personally, but both her and Robert Peston failed some basic editorial controls. Where is management providing support and guidance?” Quite.
One observer asked “Some of the criticism has been OTT, much hasn't . The same for [Robert Peston]. They are experienced journalists, not novices. They were had by the oldest trick in the book. Lying. Verbatim repetition isn't journalism. Where were the ‘2 independent sources’ to corroborate the story?” Where were they? They weren’t.
Another mused “The most important election of our lives. Both [Laura Kuenssberg] and [Robert Peston] have disseminated disinformation. We need to find out why because something has gone very wrong. Doubling down is not helpful Jeremy - it could happen to you too”. And Iain Dale - no raving leftie he - had harsh words for Peston and Ms K.
“They are briefing that a SpAd was punched, when he clearly wasn’t. The video evidence is there for all to see. What a sorry state of affairs we’ve got to. And also, for senior journalists to have fallen for that briefing and put it on social media, without actually checking the facts, is a disgrace”. So, whisper it quietly, are those defending them.
Jeremy Vine is defending the indefensible. But he can’t bring himself to admit it.
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