BBC apologises for Emily Maitlis comments on its own website after backlash

Corporation deletes statement that presenter ‘may not be to everyone’s taste’

Peter Stubley
Thursday 27 June 2019 11:21
Chaotic 15 seconds from the BBC Our Next Prime Minister debate

The BBC has blamed an “error” for posting a description of its presenter Emily Maitlis as “not to everyone’s taste”.

It published the statement on its complaints website in response to criticism from viewers about her handling of the Conservative leadership debate.

“We appreciate that her style may not be to everyone’s taste,” it read, adding: “But we consider that she did a good job.”

Following a backlash to its response, the corporation deleted the first part of the sentence and said: “An earlier draft of this response was published in error. Emily’s a superb broadcaster.”

The programme, Our Next Prime Minister, on 18 June featured a debate between five potential candidates and was watched by more than five million viewers.

It attracted at least 31 complaints to TV watchdog Ofcom and proved particularly controversial because of its choice of guests to ask the contenders questions.

One was an imam who has been suspended from his mosque and duties at the school where he works amid controversy about his past comments on Israel.

Ms Maitlis was also accused of giving Boris Johnson more follow-up questions than the other candidates.

On its complaint website, the BBC said it received complaints from “people who felt that Emily Maitlis was a poor choice of chairperson and failed to control the debate”.

In its amended response, the corporation defended the presenter, who explained that her role was to “seek clarification and direct answers when none are forthcoming”.

“The programme itself wasn’t styled on a typical debate programme, rather a hustings for the candidates and to give the audience a chance to get to know the candidates better,” the statement reads.

(Left to right) Emily Maitlis with contenders Boris Johnson, Jeremy Hunt, Michael Gove, Sajid Javid and Rory Stewart (PA)

“However Emily ensured that all of the candidates were given the chance to answer the questions and put their views across.

“We highly regard Emily as one of our regular presenters, she is extremely experienced and well versed with dealing with politicians. We consider that she did a good job during this programme.”

Additional reporting by Press Association

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