Here's what Emily Maitlis said about Dominic Cummings - and why she wasn't on Newsnight last night

Thursday, 28th May 2020, 11:46 am
Updated Thursday, 28th May 2020, 12:09 pm

When Katie Razzall, Newsnight’s UK editor, stood in for Emily Maitlis, many viewers figured she was doing so following Maitlis’ comments on the Dominic Cummings row.

Razzall appeared on the show after claims producers had decided to replace her after the introduction she gave on Tuesday’s episode, which the BBC later said did not meet its impartiality standards.

In a statement on Wednesday, the BBC said it had "reviewed the entirety of last night's Newsnight, including the opening section".

Sign up to our daily newsletter

The i newsletter cut through the noise

"As it was, we believe the introduction we broadcast did not meet our standards of due impartiality.”

But Maitlis has said that she did not present Newsnight on Wednesday evening because she “asked for the night off”.

Here's everything you need to know:

What did Maitlis say about Cummings?

In her opening remarks on the Tuesday (26 May) episode of Newsnight, Maitlis addressed the ongoing row over the conduct of Dominic Cummings, who is widely reported to have ignored several lockdown restrictions last month.

“Good evening,” she began, “Dominic Cummings broke the rules. The whole country can see that, and it is shocked that the government cannot.

“The longer ministers, and Prime Minister, tell us he worked within them, the more angry the response to this scandal is likely to be.

“He was the man, remember, who always ‘got’ the public mood, who tagged the lazy label of ‘elite’ on those who disagreed. He should understand that public mood now. One of fury, contempt, and anguish.

“He made those who struggled to keep to the rules feel like fools. And has allowed many more to assume they can now flout them.

“The Prime Minister knows all this, but despite the resignation of one minister, growing unease from his backbenchers, a dramatic early warning from the polls, and a deep national disquiet, Boris Johnson has chosen to ignore it.

“Tonight we consider what this blind loyalty tells us about the inner workings of Number 10. We do not expect to be joined by a government minister, but that won’t stop us asking the questions,” she concluded.

Did Maitlis break impartiality rules?

The BBC ruled that the presenter's comments on Prime Minister Boris Johnson's chief adviser breached impartiality rules.

"While we believe the programme contained fair, reasonable and rigorous journalism,” said the BBC in a statement.

“We feel that we should have done more to make clear the introduction was a summary of the questions we would examine, with all the accompanying evidence, in the rest of the programme.”

Maitlis’ explanation – what did she say?

In a Tweet, Ms Maitlis explained to followers: “So grateful to my friend and excellent colleague [Katie Razzall] for stepping in this evening.

“She did so because I asked for the night off - knowing tonight’s prog (sic) would be in the most excellent hands.”

Maitlis also said she has been "overwhelmed" by support from viewers as she revealed it was her decision not to appear on the show.

The broadcaster Tweeted: "Been overwhelmed by all the kindness, messages - and support on here - and I've probably missed much of it.

"A big thank you from us all at Newsnight."

Voicing their approval of her statement, Public, a cocktail bar in Sheffield city centre, Tweeted: “We hereby declare that Sheffield’s own @maitlis will now receive free drinks for life at Public.”

And the Women’s Equality Party Tweeted: “So the question is now whether she broke the rules and not whether he did? But of course.”