BBC dismisses complaints Laura Kuenssberg defended Dominic Cummings over lockdown trip

Laura Kuennsberg was accused of defending Dominic Cummings. (Dave Benett/Getty Images)
Laura Kuenssberg was accused of defending Dominic Cummings. (Dave Benett/Getty Images)

The BBC has dismissed complaints Laura Kuenssberg leapt to the defence of Dominic Cummings once news broke of his coronavirus lockdown trip to Durham.

On Friday night, Daily Mirror political editor Pippa Crerar tweeted her story that Cummings was investigated by police after he drove 250 miles from London to stay with his parents during the height of the coronavirus lockdown.

Kuenssberg, the BBC’s political editor, responded to the tweet by quoting a “source” as saying it was “not true” that police spoke to him. She also said Cummings and his wife were staying in a separate building at the property.

She wrote:

The corporation subsequently received complaints from people claiming she had defended Boris Johnson’s chief adviser.

However, in a statement published on Wednesday, the BBC insisted Kuenssberg was not writing in defence of Cummings and that she was “simply reporting information from a source”.

The full statement reads:

“As the BBC’s political editor, Laura Kuenssberg’s role is to provide our audiences with an impartial analysis of key political developments, based on her knowledge and expert judgment, and she often uses social media as a tool in her day-to-day work.

“We don’t consider that Laura was tweeting in defence of Dominic Cummings.

“Laura was simply reporting information from a source, and we believe this was clearly stated in her tweet.

“A key part of Laura’s job is to reflect views from many different parties in any given news story, which she did throughout her reporting and in her Twitter posts, during Friday evening and the rest of the weekend.

“This was clearly a big news story that was unfolding quickly, and we believe Laura reflected a lot of different views, whilst also establishing the facts and accurately reporting the many details of the story.

“BBC staff are always reminded never to present their own personal views on social media, within the fields in which they work. We’re happy that this wasn’t the case with Laura here.”

LONDON, ENGLAND - MAY 27: Chief Advisor to Prime Minister Boris Johnson, Dominic Cummings leaves his home on May 27, 2020 in London, England. On March 31st 2020, Downing Street confirmed to journalists that Dominic Cummings, senior advisor to British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, was self-isolating with COVID-19 symptoms at his home in North London. Durham police have confirmed that he was actually hundreds of miles away at his parent's house in the city, having travelled with his wife and young son. (Photo by Leon Neal/Getty Images,)
Police were outside Cummings' home in Islington, north London, as he left for work on Wednesday. (Leon Neal/Getty Images,)

The BBC did not say how many complaints it received about Kuenssberg’s tweet.

Two days after the tweet, Kuenssberg was face-to-face with Cummings as he held a Downing Street press conference to explain his actions.

Kuenssberg asked him whether he “regretted” what he did “because many people have made heartbreaking sacrifices... for some people it seems as if there was one version of the rules for you and one version of the rules for everyone else”.

Arguably the most high-profile political journalist in Westminster with 1.2 million followers on Twitter, she has come under repeated fire for her reporting during her five-year spell in the job.

Kuenssberg faced criticism during last year’s general election campaign when she amplified, and later retracted, a false claim that an aide to health secretary Matt Hancock had been punched by a Labour activist.

Kuenssberg was also accused of breaking electoral law when, one day before the election, she claimed postal ballots painted a “grim” picture for Labour.

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