Newsnight editor defends report questioning eye-witness accounts of baby thrown from Grenfell Tower

The BBC’s Newsnight attracted criticism last night after devoting much of its programme to a 20-minute report disputing eye-witness reports that a baby survived being thrown from the Grenfell Tower blaze.

The reports stemmed from a named, on the record video interview with a woman who told the Press Association that she saw a woman throw a baby from the ninth or tenth floor and a man catch it.

The woman told Newsnight: “My memory of that night is fading… I don’t want to talk about it.”

Broadcaster and architect George Clarke also told Newsnight on the day of the fire he saw a woman catch a “kid” thrown from the eighth floor.
He also did not want to comment on a matter which he said was “so hurtful to so many people”.

The programme used scientific evidence, including throwing a bowling ball out off a multi-story car park (pictured above), and interviews with psychologists and a doctor to conclude that the story “probably never happened”.

Times columnist Hugo Rifkind said on Twitter: “The Newsnight Grenfell baby debunking story is just bizarre. Why are they doing this?”

Newsnight editor Ian Katz responded: “Because it’s a powerful case study in how false narratives become accepted as truth even when lots of people acting in good faith.”

But Nikki Clarke, from London, said on Twitter: “Shame on you Newsnight. What a pointless, wasteful & hurtful report. A complete insult to the ppl who lived in Grenfell.”

David Wrigley said on Twitter: “How odd that #Newsnight spends 20m on ‘was a baby thrown from Grenfell’ story & no recent info over ongoing neglect of survivors @iankatz1000.”

Katz responded: “We report regularly on the fate of the survivors David…most recently a 30 minute film on what became of all residents on one floor.”

When told on Twitter that the report was: “Utterly pointless and so upsetting for those already suffering”, Katz responded: “Obviously not out to upset anyone but odd to suggest that trying to establish whether reported facts are true is pointless.”

Abul Kalam sad on Twitter: “I’m sorry but haven’t the residents of #Grenfell suffered enough that now #Newsnight question the legitimacy of their harrowing stories.”

Twitter user Olivia Smith, who describes herself as a Welcome Trust Research Fellow, said: “Absolutely disgusted by #newsnight Grenfell baby story, which included throwing a bowling ball off a roof. Academic analysis at its worst.”

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