Omar Salem claimed there were not enough doctors and nurses as he tackled the Prime Minister in a conversation caught on camera that went viral.
Johnson was visiting Whipps Cross University Hospital in north-east London when he was challenged by Salem on a children’s ward.
Salem, who described himself on Twitter as a ‘Labour activist’, said the situation was “not acceptable” and that the NHS had been “destroyed”.
Kuenssberg, who has more than one million Twitter followers, sparked anger online after highlighting Salem’s political leanings.
She initially tweeted:
Turns out the man who challenged the PM is also a Labour activist— Laura Kuenssberg (@bbclaurak) September 18, 2019
And then quote tweeted Salem’s comments:
Many of those upset about Kuenssberg’s use of social media pointed to her huge following and suggested she was contributing to a “pile-on”.
Those tweets by @bbclaurak were deeply irresponsible— David Allen Green (@davidallengreen) September 18, 2019
And it would be the same if it were instead a Tory activist or anyone else
On any account, this was a father of a sick child, for gods' sakes
Thanks Laura, next time any patient gets substandard care I'll make sure to check their political affiliation first before I listen to their concerns. https://t.co/E10RUJsCTc— Dr Philip Lee (@drphiliplee1) September 18, 2019
What this sick child's father should actually have done is hid his political activism behind a front organisation - let's call it "The Concerned Father's Alliance". That way our media would gladly have him on every political panel and never once reference his other affiliations.— Stephen McGann (@StephenMcGann) September 18, 2019
Apparently the only place the BBC thinks activists should be allowed to offer opinions without first reciting a political resume is the BBCQT audience.— Dmitry Grozoubinski (@DmitryOpines) September 18, 2019
But late on Wednesday, the BBC News Press Team released a statement dismissing any suggestion of “malicious intent”.
It said: “Laura is a journalist who uses social media as part of her job.
“Like many others, Laura quote tweeted a thread by Omar Salem, who has written himself about his encounter with the PM on social media and describes himself as an activist.
“Any suggestion there was malicious intent behind her tweets are absurd.”
BBC statement about Laura Kuenssberg pic.twitter.com/qzO9eZMMOj— BBC News Press Team (@BBCNewsPR) September 18, 2019
Others also came to the journalist’s defence, arguing she was just doing her job and presenting the facts of the encounter.
Two political journalists today tweeted the exact same thing. One faced an online mob of tens of thousands, many calling for them to be sacked (for sharing a tweet by a man who was trying to identify himself to the public anyway). The other got nothing— Julia Macfarlane (@juliamacfarlane) September 18, 2019
Guess which one is a woman https://t.co/d540XylJKk
It’s depressing that this still needs to be said: Laura Kuenssberg did her job. Leave her alone https://t.co/o5jR4r8VTL— James Kirkup (@jameskirkup) September 18, 2019
1) 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.— Rob Burley (@RobBurl) September 18, 2019
During the encounter, Salem said the situation was “not acceptable” and told the prime minister: “There are not enough people on this ward, there are not enough doctors, there’s not enough nurses, it’s not well organised enough.
“The NHS has been destroyed … and now you come here for a press opportunity.”
Johnson said “there’s no press here” but Salem gestured to cameras filming the confrontation, and said: “What do you mean there’s no press here, who are these people?”
The PM later said he was “glad” Salem confronted him.
I’ve been PM for 57 days, part of my job is to talk to people on the ground and listen to what they tell me about the big problems. It doesn’t matter if they agree with me.— Boris Johnson (@BorisJohnson) September 18, 2019
I’m glad this gentleman told me his problems. This isn’t an embarrassment this is part of my job. https://t.co/j60ODrROXi
He wrote on Twitter: “I’ve been PM for 57 days, part of my job is to talk to people on the ground and listen to what they tell me about the big problems. It doesn’t matter if they agree with me. I’m glad this gentleman told me his problems. This isn’t an embarrassment this is part of my job.”
Labour said Johnson was being confronted by the effects of Conservative austerity and hit out at his claim there was “no press” at the event.
Tottenham MP David Lammy said: “He just can’t stop lying.”
Shadow health secretary Jonathan Ashworth said: “Boris Johnson simply can’t be honest with people.
“He can make as many phoney announcements on the NHS as he likes but he can’t hide from the truth, or from patients.
“The Tories have plunged the health service into crisis through years of cuts and privatisation and the Prime Minister can’t run from the consequences this has had for patient care.”