Boris Johnson has denied attacking the BBC for its coverage of Vladimir Putin’s war in Ukraine, as he has been accused of slandering the station’s journalists who are risking their lives to cover the conflict.
At a private meeting of Tory MPs, the PM reportedly attacked the BBC and Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby for criticizing his asylum plan in Rwanda, claiming they were “less vocal” in condemning Mr Putin.
Mr Johnson, however, denied criticizing the BBC for its coverage of the Ukraine war and insisted he said “nothing like that” at Tuesday night’s closed-door meeting.
Union leader Sir Keir Starmer took up the reports from the meeting, telling MPs: “The Prime Minister also accused the BBC of not being sufficiently critical of Putin.
“Would the Prime Minister have the courage to say that to the face of Clive Myrie, Lyse Doucet and Steve Rosenberg (BBC reporters) who have all risked their lives day in and day out on the front lines in Russia and Ukraine to expose Putin’s barbarism? ”
The Prime Minister replied: “I have said nothing of the sort and I – as a former journalist – have the utmost admiration for what journalists do. I think they do an excellent job.
“I think he should take back what he just said – it has absolutely no basis or basis in truth.”
Sir Keir said the Prime Minister would “slander decent people in a private room and let the slander spread without the backbone to repeat it publicly”.
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“How can the Prime Minister claim to be a patriot when he is deliberately attacking and demeaning the institutions of our great country?” Sir Keir added.
Mr Johnson shot back: “I did not attack the BBC for their coverage of Ukraine last night. He must have lost his tiny mind.”
Tory MPs are ready “to witness that,” he added.
Sir David Evennett, Conservative MP for Bexleyheath and Crayford, later raised a point of order, saying: “On these benches we have strong faith in the BBC and believe they are doing a great job, particularly when it comes to reporting from Ukraine; The opposition leader’s proposal, which the Prime Minister proposed somewhat differently at last night’s session, which I attended, is grossly inaccurate and the opposition leader (should) withdraw this for misleading the House.”
The reported comments came as Mr Johnson tried to divert attention from his apology for breaking coronavirus rules by attending his Cabinet Room lockdown-breaking birthday party in June 2020.
Sources close to the Prime Minister said he had told Tory MPs in a private meeting the Rwanda plan was “good policy”, despite some “criticism of the BBC and from senior members of the clergy” who were “less vocal”. were in their condemnation”. on Easter Sunday by Putin when they were on our policy of illegal immigrants”.
The Daily Telegraph – Mr Johnson’s former employer – reported that Mr Johnson accused both the BBC and the Archbishop of Canterbury of being more critical of the government’s plans to send Canal migrants to Rwanda than the invasion of Ukraine.
On BBC Radio 4’s Today program on Wednesday, presenter Justin Webb challenged Business Secretary Paul Scully to the Prime Minister’s comments.
Mr Scully said he hadn’t seen “much of the coverage” on the BBC of the plan to send some asylum seekers arriving in the UK on a one-way trip to Rwanda for processing “because I was away for the weekend”.
Mr Webb said: “He appeared to be making it clear to Conservative MPs that the BBC and the Archbishop (of Canterbury) were not focusing enough on Vladimir Putin.
“I’m just wondering if you can think of an occasion where Boris Johnson risked his life for the truth – like (BBC correspondents) Jeremy Bowen, like Lyse Doucet, like Clive Myrie?”
Mr Johnson faces the prospect of a vote in the House of Commons on Thursday on whether to have a parliamentary committee investigate allegations that he lied to the House.
Mr Scully said: “I can’t particularly comment on that…in relation to the fact that…his approach to his view of the BBC’s approach to Putin.”
Mr Webb suggested it was a “smoke screen” and Mr Johnson attacked “people he really shouldn’t be attacking”.
Mr Scully said: “I don’t particularly remember the comment, I’m just trying to explain the context I think he was trying to make.”
He acknowledged that there had been “excellent coverage from the BBC and elsewhere” on the ground in Ukraine.
“I’m not attacking the BBC, I join you,” he told Today.
https://www.independent.ie/entertainment/johnson-denies-attacking-bbc-coverage-of-russias-war-with-ukraine-41570360.html Johnson denies attacking BBC coverage of Russia’s war with Ukraine