Laura Kuenssberg under fire for 'punch' claim

The moment a Tory aide walked into a protester

Tuesday, December 10, 2019

The BBC's political editor has come under fire for falsely reporting that a Labour activist punched a Conservative aide.

In a now-deleted Twitter post, Laura Kuenssberg told her 1.1 million followers that an anti-Tory protester outside Leeds General Infirmary assaulted Health Secretary Matt Hancock's adviser.

She wrote: "So Matt Hancock was despatched to Leeds General (sorry not just Leeds Hospital), to try to sort out mess, hearing Labour activists scrambled to go and protest, and it turned nasty when they arrived – one of them punched Hancock’s adviser."

Her claims were also backed up by ITV's political editor, Robert Peston, who said "senior Tories" told him Mr Hancock's aide had been "whacked".

However, a video later emerged which showed the adviser inadvertently walking into the arm of the activist.

The tweet has now been deleted

The false claims sparked fury online, with one Twitter user writing: "Was there a punch? No. Were you lied to by senior Tory sources? Yes. Did you, and others, uncritically report what they (2 sources!) said to you without seeking out the evidence? Yes. Is that 'good journalism'? No."

And Novara Media founder, Aaron Bastani, called for Ms Kuenssberg and Mr Peston to be "fired immediately".

He said: "At the height of a general election they have spread fake news more than anyone could imagine. They’ve undermined this country’s most sacred democratic exercise. Go."

Ms Kuenssberg has since issued an apology for the false report, tweeting: "Happy to apologise for earlier confusion about the punch that wasn’t a punch outside Leeds General – 2 sources suggested it had happened but clear from video that was wrong."

Mr Peston also apologised, telling his followers he was sorry for "getting this wrong".

Cabinet minister Mr Hancock was attending Leeds General to address a photo of a four-year-old boy asleep on the floor of the hospital due to a lack of beds.

As he left, a group of protesters gathered outside told him: "We do not want you in this country, we do not want you in this hospital".

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