‘Name the source’: Prominent journalists call on BBC and ITV to reveal ‘senior Conservatives’ who spread fake adviser story

Senior editor says 'all lies and liars should be put on the record' after inaccurate reports

Conrad Duncan
Wednesday 11 December 2019 14:30
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Footage of supposed 'punch' of Matt Hancock adviser

Senior journalists have called on the BBC and ITV to reveal the identities of the “Conservative sources” who spread false claims that a Labour activist punched a Tory adviser.

On Monday, a false news story about a supposed assault outside Leeds General Infirmary quickly spread across social media after it was amplified by two of the UK’s most prominent political editors.

West Yorkshire Police later said they were unaware of any reports of an assault and a video of the incident showed a man walking into the hand of a protester.

After the story was shared by Laura Kuenssberg, the BBC’s political editor, and Robert Peston, ITV’s political editor, journalists and political commentators have called on the sources of the story to be revealed.

“Can someone at ITV or the BBC give me a good reason for us not yet knowing which senior Conservative sources lied about violence towards a political adviser yesterday,” Shelagh Fogarty, an LBC broadcaster and former BBC Radio 5 Live presenter, said.

“If there’s a good reason I am genuinely keen to know it.”

The Independent has approached BBC News and ITV News for comment on whether there are any plans to name, or stop using, the source.

The BBC said it had no comment to make on the issue, while ITV News did not respond to a request for comment in time for publication.

Kevin Maguire, the Daily Mirror’s associate editor, said “all lies and liars should be put on the record” and called for the sources to be named.

LBC’s James O’Brien and the Guardian's Carole Cadwalladr, who helped break the Cambridge Analytica​ scandal, have also called on journalists to reveal the identity of the source.

“They won’t be facing any consequences from the people they lied for, so action must be taken by the people they lied to,” Mr O'Brien said on Monday.

The incident occurred when Matt Hancock, the health secretary, was sent to Leeds General Infirmary in an attempt to calm a controversy over a picture showing a sick four-year-old boy who had been forced to sleep on the floor due to a shortage of beds.

In response to the incident, Labour claimed the Conservatives had resorted to “bare-faced lying”.

“The Tories are so desperate to distract from a four-year-old boy sleeping on a hospital floor because of their cuts to our NHS that, once again, they have resorted to bare-faced lying,” a Labour spokesperson said.

“This is a new low and the Conservative party has serious questions to answer.”

Robert Buckland, the justice secretary, said he did not know who in the Conservative Party had made the false claims to journalists.

He told the BBC there appeared to be some “accidental contact” in the incident but admitted that it did not look like anyone had been punched.

After footage disproving claims of a punch was released, Ms Kuennsberg and Mr Peston both released statements to clarify what had happened.

“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,” Ms Kuennsberg wrote on Twitter.

“It is completely clear from video footage that @MattHancock's adviser was not whacked by a protestor, as I was told by senior Tories, but that he inadvertently walked into a protestor's hand. I apologise for getting this wrong,” Mr Peston wrote.

The row followed repeated criticism of the use of anonymous sources and misleading information by the official Conservative campaign during the 2019 general election.

Research by fact-checking organisation First Draft found that 88 per cent of the Conservative Party’s most widely promoted ads featured claims that have been flagged as misleading or inaccurate.

Meanwhile, the organisation could not find any misleading claims in ads run by the Labour Party over the same period.

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