Keir Starmer retracts accusation Boris Johnson criticised BBC over Ukraine coverage

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Keir Starmer retracts accusation Boris Johnson criticised BBC over Ukraine coverage
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Sir Keir Starmer retracted his accusation that Boris Johnson criticised the BBC over its coverage of the Ukraine invasion on Wednesday.

The Labour leader clarified his position ahead of a debate in the House of Commons on whether the prime minister should be referred to the Privileges Committee for misleading Parliament over partygate.

Before his official statement, Sir Keir said: “The prime minister’s comments on Tuesday night to his backbenchers were briefed to journalists by a spokesperson.

“Those comments were reasonably interpreted by several media outlets, including the Daily Telegraph, as being criticisms of the Archbishop of Canterbury and the BBC for their comments and coverage of Ukraine.

“Government ministers were out on broadcast rounds yesterday morning and they didn’t seek to correct that interpretation.

“But since then the Government has corrected the record and said the prime minister’s comments only referred to the Archbishop and not the BBC, so I’m more than happy to echo that correction and withdraw my comments of yesterday.”

Mr Johnson has strongly denied criticising the BBC over its war coverage, insisting he said “nothing of the kind” during a late night meeting with backbench Conservative MPs.

At a private meeting with his parliamentary party on Tuesday, the prime minister was said to have attacked the BBC and Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby for criticising his Rwanda asylum plan.

A source claimed Mr Johnson had said senior clergymen had been “less vociferous” about condemning Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Following the comments being widely reported, Sir Keir said during Prime Ministers’ Questions on Wednesday: “The Prime Minister also accused the BBC of not being critical enough of Putin.

“Would the Prime Minister have the guts to say that to the face of (BBC reporters) Clive Myrie, Lyse Doucet and Steve Rosenberg, who have all risked their lives day in, day out, on the frontline in Russia and Ukraine uncovering Putin’s barbarism?”

Mr Johnson responded: “I said nothing of the kind and I have the highest admiration – as a former journalist – for what journalists do. I think they do an outstanding job.

“I think he should withdraw what he just said – it has absolutely no basis or foundation in truth.”

Sir Keir said the Prime Minister would “slander decent people in a private room, let the slander spread without the backbone to repeat it in public”.

Mr Johnson replied by denying he had attacked the BBC over its coverage of Ukraine, adding of Sir Keir: “He must be out of his tiny mind.”

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