BBC political editor Laura Kuenssberg is facing calls to resign after incorrectly claiming a Labour activist assaulted a Conservative staffer.
The incident happened outside Leeds General Infirmary, where Health Secretary Matt Hancock was meeting with bosses mere hours after ITN’s Joe Pike tried to show Boris Johnson a picture of a sick four-year-old boy forced to sleep on the hospital floor due to lack of bed space, but the Prime Minister grabbed the journalist’s phone and placed it in his pocket.
While departing the hospital, Hancock was heckled by a small crowd gathered outside. The Conservatives told a number of mainstream journalists the miniature protest was organised by Labour – this has been denied – and also that one of the Health Secretary’s aides was “punched” by one of the collective while attempting to leave the scene.
Have video from Hancock leaving Leeds General just come through so you can see for yourself - doesn’t look like punch thrown, rather, one of Tory team walks into protestor’s arm, pretty grim encounter pic.twitter.com/hD1KwA72gG— Laura Kuenssberg (@bbclaurak) December 9, 2019
“So Matt Hancock was despatched [sic] to Leeds General (sorry not just Leeds Hospital), to try to sort out the mess, hearing Labour activists scrambled to go + protest, and it turned nasty when they arrived - one of them punched Hancock's adviser,” Kuenssberg tweeted not long after.
ITV's Robert Peston likewise transmitted the allegation, claimed the adviser had been "whacked in the face by a protester".
However, footage of the incident emerged shortly thereafter, depicting a cyclist, donning hi-viz, becoming agitated with Hancock and gesticulating with his right arm, which Hancock’s adviser then walked into.
Kuenssberg later deleted the tweet, then shared the exonerating video, inviting her followers to “see for yourself”.
“Doesn’t look like punch thrown, rather, one of Tory team walks into protester’s arm, pretty grim encounter,” she observed.
Peston likewise later apologised, tweeting that it was “completely clear” from the video Hancock’s adviser wasn’t harmed by a protestor, as he’d been told “by senior Tories”.
Too late to add 'balance' now, Laura. The fact is you repeated a serious accusation without checking. Would you have passed on an equivalent Labour claim so casually? Not a chance. That's the problem. https://t.co/8qhWsxlbMz— Media Lens (@medialens) December 9, 2019
In response, former Channel 4 and BBC journalist Paul Mason was likewise highly condemnatory, stating the British state broadcaster had “relied on a single, partisan source with no corroborative evidence” for the story, in the process “providing right-wing newspapers with a BBC branded fake news story”.