BBC Defends Laura Kuenssberg's Tweets About Father Who Confronted Boris Johnson

Graeme Demianyk

The BBC has defended Laura Kuenssberg after the corporation’s political editor faced an online backlash over her tweets about an angry father of a sick baby who confronted Boris Johnson.

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:

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”. 

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.”

Others also came to the journalist’s defence, arguing she was just doing her job and presenting the facts of the encounter.

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.

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.”

Related...