Nadine Dorries took aim at the BBC’s Laura Kuenssberg for tweeting out the contents of a text from an anonymous source which insulted the prime minister – before claiming she had been misinterpreted the following day.
The cabinet minister replied to one of Kuenssberg’s tweets on Wednesday and said: “Laura, I very much like you and respect you, but we both know, that text is ridiculous although nowhere near as ridiculous as the person – obviously totally desperate for your attention – who sent it.”
Kuenssberg, the BBC’s political editor, had tweeted: “After PMQs, then liaison committee, the prime minister then went to face his own MPs at the 1922 committee – one texts to say, ‘he looked weak and sounded weak’, ‘authority is evaporating.’”
Dorries later deleted her tweet after it caused a stir but Labour MP and shadow culture secretary Jo Stevens mentioned the issue in the Commons on Thursday.
She also indicated that Dorries was already frustrated towards the BBC after Radio 4 presenter Nick Robinson told the prime minister to “stop talking” a few weeks ago.
According to The Times, the culture secretary told friends: “Nick Robinson has cost the BBC a lot of money.”
After PMQs, then Liaison Committe, PM then went to face his own MPs at the 1922 committee - one texts to say, he 'looked weak and sounded weak' , 'authority is evaporating'
— Laura Kuenssberg (@bbclaurak) November 17, 2021
Dorries is an ally of Boris Johnson and was promoted to culture secretary in his cabinet reshuffle in September.
The prime minister has been fielding a lot more criticism recently due to the ongoing sleaze row surrounding his party, backlash over his latest U-turn with the northern rail plans and concerns that COP26 – the UN climate summit he hosted in Glasgow – did not go as well as it needed to.
He is subsequently slumping in popularity polls from YouGov and his repeated U-turns have left Tory backbenchers particularly unhappy – which may explain why Dorries tweeted in defence of Johnson so quickly.
This chart from @YouGov probably makes the point clearest. The drop in support for the Tories looks a lot more like a trend than a blip caused by the sleaze stories.https://t.co/7EdZ4vfojMpic.twitter.com/caH8swe0AL
— Chris Curtis (@chriscurtis94) November 18, 2021
In the Commons, Dorries dismissed the meaning behind her tweet.
She said: “I did not rebuke Laura Kuenssberg, someone who is maybe the best in the business...some members of the opposition seem to have difficulty understanding a composition of 240 characters.
“The tweet was completely misinterpreted I was not rebuking Laura Kuenssberg and never would.”
The BBC declined to comment when approached by HuffPost UK.
As the culture secretary, Dorries warned the BBC earlier in the year about the cost of the licence fee and cuts to the broadcaster.
She claimed on Thursday that she was “close to reaching an agreement” with the BBC over the sensitive subject.
This article originally appeared on HuffPost UK and has been updated.