Emily Maitlis made the comments on Tuesday night’s episode of Newsnight, where she gave a monologue heavily criticising the Government’s response to Dominic Cummings’ actions. The TV presenter was berated on social media for not appearing impartial, with Ofcom confirming they have received a swathe of complaints after the show aired. The broadcasting watchdog said it “received a total of 247 complaints regarding opening remarks made by Emily Maitlis”.
A spokesman for the TV watchdog said they will not launch an investigation until after the BBC has held its own formal inquiry.
The BBC is claimed to have had 10 times as many complaints from viewers than Ofcom, but the broadcaster is refusing to release any figures at the moment.
The Guido Fawkes blog has claimed the corporation has received 18,158 complaints in 24 hours and the figure is “still going up”.
But the complaints could also be from Ms Maitlis’ supporters, who are furious that bosses reprimanded her for the comments.
BBC bosses made a statement yesterday saying her monologue breached impartiality rules.
Newsnight reporter Katie Razzall stood in for Ms Maitlis in last night’s episode of the programme.
Ms Maitlis later tweeted saying she had “asked for the night off” and insisted she had not been taken off the air by her bosses.
She wrote: “So grateful to my friend and excellent colleague @katierazz for stepping in this evening.
“She did so because I asked for the night off – knowing tonight’s prog would be in the most excellent hands.”
She added later: ‘Been overwhelmed by all the kindness, messages – and support on here – and I’ve probably missed much of it. A big thank you from us all at #newsnight.”
The broadcaster used the monologue to accuse Boris Johnson of “blind loyalty” to his adviser, as she discussed the furore surrounding Mr Cummings’ 260-mile tripe to Durham during the coronavirus lockdown.
At the start of the programme, Ms Maitlis told viewers: “Dominic Cummings broke the rules – the country can see that and it’s shocked the Government cannot.
“The longer ministers and the Prime Minister insist he worked within them, the more likely the angry response to the scandal is likely to be … He made those who struggled to keep to the rules feel like fools, and has allowed many more to assume they can flout them.”
She added: “The Prime Minister knows all this and has chosen to ignore it.”
After the programme aired, the BBC said in a statement: “We’ve reviewed the entirety of last night’s Newsnight, including the opening section, and while we believe the programme contained fair, reasonable and rigorous journalism, we feel that we should have done more to make clear the introduction was a summary of the questions we would examine, with all the accompanying evidence, in the rest of the programme.
“As it was, we believe the introduction we broadcast did not meet our standards of due impartiality.”
The BBC also said staff had been “reminded of the guidelines” around impartiality following the divisive broadcast.