The official Twitter account for the United Kingdom’s Civil Service left netizens in confusion after posting a message that was thought by many to take aim at members of the Downing Street government shortly after a daily COVID-19 briefing headed by UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson.
During the Sunday briefing, Johnson supported senior adviser Cummings, who was documented ignoring the COVID-19 lockdown rules by travelling to Houghall Woods, Durham, twice, on 5 and 19 April. The briefing took place amid rising calls from many in London for Cummings to resign.
"I can tell you today that I’ve had extensive face-to-face conversations with Dominic Cummings and I conclude that in traveling to find the right kind of childcare at the moment when both he and his wife were about to be incapacitated by coronavirus and when he had no alternative I think he followed the instincts of every father and every parent and I do not mark him down for that," Johnson said in a public address on Sunday.
Johnson insisted that his advisor acted "responsibly, legally and with integrity."
The tweet, posted directly at the end of the press conference and featuring the phrase “truth twisters”, prompted an immediate reaction.
“Arrogant and offensive. Can you imagine having to work with these truth twisters?” the deleted tweet read, according to screenshots.
This has just been tweeted from the UK Civil Service account.— Lewis Goodall (@lewis_goodall) May 24, 2020
This is the craziest political weekend for a long time. pic.twitter.com/u4x0i6plHL
The tweet was liked and retweeted many tens of thousands of times before it was taken down.
It is not clear whether the UK Civil Service Twitter account, which boasts over 261K followers, was hacked before the incident or the message was posted on purpose.
Downing Street said it has launched an investigation into the "unauthorised" message.
An unauthorised tweet was posted on a government channel this evening. The post has been removed and we are investigating the matter.— Cabinet Office (@cabinetofficeuk) May 24, 2020
Shocked Twitter users reacted variously to the mysterious message, with some praising the content and the person behind it.
“This was a genuine tweet from the genuine civil service twitter account. That's how the UK is feeling right now,” someone wrote.
This was a genuine tweet from the genuine civil service twitter account. Thats how the UK is feeling right now. pic.twitter.com/UidLoliTxZ— Kerry McCranor (@kerry_mccranor) May 24, 2020
Raising a glass to whoever hijacked the UK civil service Twitter! 💕🥂🍻 pic.twitter.com/Oocws0M6Ol— Ginny Black #FBPE (@BaronessBlack) May 24, 2020
A significant number of Twitterians also suggested that the incident as inappropriate, with some calling on the UK Civil Service to “remain impartial”.
"The UK Civil Service must remain impartial. On this basis, should the rogue civil servant who tweeted (using the official @UKCivilService account) to describe the Prime Minister as "arrogant and offensive, truth twister" be fired from his/her position? Yes or No?" a Twitter user asked.
The UK Civil Service must remain impartial. On this basis, should the rogue civil servant who tweeted (using the official @UKCivilService account) to describe the Prime Minister as "arrogant and offensive, truth twister" be fired from his/her position? Yes or No? pic.twitter.com/lW5PgkTksh— David Vance (@DVATW) May 24, 2020
Another group attempted to explain what was happening with the Civil Service official Twitter account.
Looks like somebody in the UK civil service may have been justifiably unhappy with the current government. 😂 https://t.co/S9x1975hxe— ∫∇.i tⒶt dr = 0 (@WoopsWoah) May 24, 2020
On Friday, a joint investigation by The Guardian and the Daily Mirror reported that Cummings had been identified in Durham, in breach of nationwide coronavirus lockdown regulations. The Mirror noted in another report on Saturday that Cummings, whose wife had tested positive for COVID-19, defied the lockdown restrictions for a second time, taking another trip to Durham.
On Saturday, the prime minster resisted calls from the opposition and others in government to fire Cummings, arguing that the political adviser made the journey to ensure that his young son be properly cared for after his mother tested positive for the disease.