The BBC has backed its political editor, Laura Kuenssberg, over complaints she tweeted “in defence” of Dominic Cummings after news broke that he had driven from London to Durham during lockdown.
Kuenssberg responded directly to Daily Mirror political editor Pippa Crerar after the tabloid journalist shared the scoop on Friday night, in what critics argued amounted to a rebuttal of the story on Cummings’ behalf.
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“Source says his trip was within guidelines as Cummings went to stay with his parents so they could help with childcare while he and his wife were ill – they insist no breach of lockdown,” Kuenssberg tweeted.
The BBC has said today that it received complaints over the tweet – it has not revealed how many, but enough to warrant a public response in its section for “significant complaints of wide audience concern”.
The BBC said Kuenssberg reflected a range of views about the story on Friday night and over the rest of the weekend, and that it was clear she was reporting information from a source in her reply to Crerar.
The BBC said in a statement: “As the BBC’s political editor, Laura Kuenssberg’s role is to provide our audiences with an impartial analysis of key political developments, based on her knowledge and expert judgment, and she often uses social media as a tool in her day to day work.
“We don’t consider that Laura was tweeting in defence of Dominic Cummings. Laura was simply reporting information from a source, and we believe this was clearly stated in her tweet.
“A key part of Laura’s job is to reflect views from many different parties in any given news story, which she did throughout her reporting and in her Twitter posts, during Friday evening and the rest of the weekend.
“This was clearly a big news story that was unfolding quickly, and we believe Laura reflected a lot of different views, whilst also establishing the facts and accurately reporting the many details of the story.”
The BBC’s editorial guidelines, reviewed last year, contain guidance on social media usage, including that staff “should avoid bringing the BBC into disrepute through their actions” online and must “take particular care” to maintain the BBC’s impartiality, even on personal accounts.
Just last month BBC director of news Fran Unsworth emailed journalists asking them to consider again how they use social media on their personal accounts, including by ensuring that every post, tweet, retweet or like is accurate and impartial so trust in the corporation is not undermined.
The BBC today said its staff are “always reminded never to present their own personal views on social media, within the fields in which they work” but that it was “happy” this had not been the case with Kuenssberg’s tweet.