Burley’s whataboutery fails to get Kuenssberg off the hook

The editor of the BBC’s live politics programmes, including Politics Live, has made a fool of himself trying to defend Laura Kuenssberg.

Ms Kuenssberg, the BBC’s political editor, caused the father of a sick one-week-old girl to be dogpiled by supporters of Conservative prime minister Boris Johnson (yes, apparently some still exist) when she tweeted that Omar Salem was a “Labour activist”.

The backlash was severe and deserved.

In rushed Rob Burley, who edits BBC TV shows which feature Ms Kuenssberg, to tweet the following:

It’s a very interesting point, coming as it does from the editor of a show that has the opportunity to provide information about the political views of people appearing on Politics Live every weekday and also on Sundays, but doesn’t.

This Writer anticipates a flurry of tweets outing the guests on that show, from now on.

Today (September 20), the show’s listing suggests that panellists will include Sherelle Jacobs (Telegraph columnist, rabidly Leave-supporting), Liam Halligan (Sunday Telegraph economics columnist, right-wing), Zing Tsjeng (executive editor of Vice UK, which refused to recognise the National Union of Journalists when its employees voted to unionise – even though the company’s branches in the US had unionised), and Trevor Phillips (former EHRC chairman, Blairite Labour). Will any of them be listed as such?

And what about Ms Kuenssberg’s own political views? They must also be “part of the picture” and it would be “perfectly proper” for Mr Burley to provide that information. Perhaps he had not carried out his own “thought experiment”, as he has never done so.

What about Jo Coburn’s political loyalties, or Andrew Neil’s? Or Faisal Islam’s, as he was set to host Politics Live today?

And of course Mr Burley failed to acknowledge that Ms Kuenssberg had flagged up Mr Salem’s Twitter address to her followers with the message “This is him!”, so they all knew who to dogpile.


At the very least, as Mike Harding points out, it’s “whataboutery”:

And it was also a successful bid to drag attention away from the issue that Mr Salem had raised – the diabolical underfunding of the National Health Service, endangering the lives of newborn children, by a government of hypocrites who then used it for a photo opportunity to pretend that everything is hunky-dory.

While Mr Salem has been dogpiled and Ms Kuenssberg reviled, Boris Johnson has sailed away, back into his “la-la land” of lies.

When will he be challenged over the issues raised by Mr Salem?

Have YOU donated to my crowdfunding appeal, raising funds to fight false libel claims by TV celebrities who should know better? These court cases cost a lot of money so every penny will help ensure that wealth doesn’t beat justice.


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7 thoughts on “Burley’s whataboutery fails to get Kuenssberg off the hook

  1. Mark C

    Burley’s parroting the BBC’s defence which I received yesterday as a reply to the complaint I sent just hours earlier. In it they said; “Our editorial guidelines require us to give ‘appropriate information’ about the affiliations of the people involved in our News stories. Giving our audience as much information as possible enables them to make up their own minds and gives them the chance to hear the story in full”

    It’s absolute bollocks of course. As you say, surely then everyone’s political affiliations would be flagged up prior to their contributions. I immediately escalated my complaint with a follow up arguing that, if this is indeed the case, why is it that the BBC allows right wing political activists to speak at length as members of the Question Time audience unchallenged by anyone checking into their social media/personal lives?

    1. Mike Sivier Post author

      Indeed – and would giving away Mr Salem’s Twitter address be considered “appropriate information”, considering it led to a dogpile?

  2. Sandy

    I replied to the post previous post on LK’s twitter earlier today.

    I wrote (among other things), “I wonder whether Laura K would’ve bothered tweeting about this topic if Mr Salem was a conservative activist? Something along the lines of, “Turns out the father of the sick child is a Tory activist and even he challenged the PM.”
    Somehow I doubt that. But if she had, then no doubt the Mail et al would be up in arms decrying the BBC for its ‘left-wing’ bias.”

    Rob Burley’s tweet in defense of LK over this particular tweet is pure Whataboutery. Mr Salem’s rebukes and questions to Johnson were to do with Tory underfunding for the NHS and, more specifically, the state of the underfunding for the hospital his week old daughter was in and how that underfunding was affecting her care. I daresay if Labour were in power under the same circumstances then Mr S would’ve equally upbraided Corybn. A parent being worried sick about their seriously ill baby tends to take precedence over party loyalty!

    If anything, it should be more noteworthy if Mr S was a Tory activist when confronting Johnson, or if someone were a Labour activist whenconfronting Corbyn, and not the other way round. I think RB is as big a burk as LK.

  3. Bill Waghorn

    Let’s have some REAL objective journalism: “Well-known Tory activist on publicly funded electioneering visit to cruelly run down hospital challenged by concerned father of sick daughter.”

  4. Gary

    No, I can’t agree. If you put yourself front and centre when something is being broadcast to the nation then people WILL want to know that your are a party activist. It DOES speak to motive, whether he was Labour or Tory.

    I agree on the other point though, we SHOULD know the previous political involvements of the journalists too. Like Nick Robinson being a leader of the Young Tories when he was at Uni, for example. That speaks volumes about how he acts, especially his now infamous story about Alex Samond refusing to answer his question – later revealed on YouTube to be false as Salmond gave a nauseatingly full answer of about 6 minutes long. Had his political affiliations been known it would’ve been clear that this was not ‘an error’ but simply a lie.

    We’ve seen similar things before when the BBC has asked people to do a talking head segment only to discover they held extreme views. Thus causing them to have to apologise for not properly vetting their contributors. NB when I say ‘extreme’ I mean pro terrorism (openly)

    But neither should anyone encourage or cause a ‘dogpile’ or vilify a member of the public. Care must be taken to ensure they do not do so. Although it may be inevitable in some cases and journalists CAN’T be held responsible for the vile actions of a small section of the public.

    People must be free to report, otherwise blogs like this would be unable to speak freely about anyone. For example the current legal action with the author of this blog and a well known celebrity COULD cause such a problem. But should the author be held responsible for such misguided individuals who might do such things? No, he should not…

  5. Barry

    Kuensberg only tweeted it after the mass of tweets she received asking why she hadn’t initially reported this important fact. The man had been miked up before boris got there and then they ambushed boris who had no idea the camera’s were going to be at that point of the visit. To abandon a sick 7 day old child for political reasons is bad enough to set up an “impromptu” attack by a member of the public is more drop the dead donkey than journalism.

    1. Mike Sivier Post author

      Why are you lying about this, Barry? We can see that Mr Salem isn’t wearing a microphone in the clip. Are your other claims similarly devoid of factual accuracy? Show me evidence that Ms Kuenssberg was reacting to public demand. Show me evidence that Mr Johnson did not expect press cameras to be at his photo opportunity press junket. Show me evidence that Mr Salem had abandoned his child.

      You’ve really let yourself down here.

Comments are closed.