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Worst Hot Take of the Week: A BBC Reporter Doxxing the Father of a Sick Child

Boris Johnson was caught in a lie. The sensible response? Call out the man who exposed the lie as the opposition, then direct all of your Twitter followers at him.

by NEO
20 September 2019, 8:39am

Screenshot via Channel 4 News

Welcome to The Worst Take of the Week – a weekly column in which NEO, AKA @MULLET_FAN NEO, crowns the wildest hot take of the week.

What's the story? Boris Johnson lied to angry dad by saying he wasn't doing press, in front of a load of cameras, and was then confronted about the condition of the NHS.

Reasonable take: The Prime Minister is caught lying, once again, and has no answers about the state of the public health service.

Brain rot: The angry dad is a Labour activist! Get the cunt!

This week, Boris Johnson's visit to Whipps Cross University Hospital in east London went viral after he was confronted by Omar Salem, an angry father whose infant daughter had nearly died because the ward on which she was treated was "not safe for children" after years of government-enforced austerity.

"The NHS has been destroyed, and now you come here for a press opportunity?" said Mr Salem. In an attempt to wriggle from the situation, Johnson promised that "there's no press here" as Salem gestured to the camera crew down the corridor very obviously recording the entire visit. Johnson then said he was at the hospital to "find out" about the state of the NHS, to which Salem replied: "It’s a bit late, isn’t it?"

After the clash, a doctor working on the ward anonymously told the Guardian that the "hospital and the lack of resources, levels of underfunding and understaffing are beyond belief", saying it was a contrived press opportunity by the Prime Minister and that he was "so glad" Salem spoke up. Chief executive of Whipps Cross hospital, Alan Gurney, even apologised for the care given to Salem’s seven-day-old daughter.

So when Boris Johnson got caught bang to rights lying on camera, once again, with irrefutable proof captured by the BBC, you'd imagine the obvious story for the publicly funded impartial broadcaster would be to report on the Prime Minister's falsity, or him staging PR events, or the failing, understaffed, underfunded NHS described by Salem, and the doctors and patients who are suffering the consequences. WRONG!

BBC journalist Laura Kuenssberg instead chose to question the sincerity and motives of a guy who had done more to hold Johnson accountable for his party's actions in two minutes than the majority of the British media have over the last ten years.

"Turns out the man who challenged the PM is also a Labour activist," she tweeted, before directing her 1.1 million followers towards Salem's account, alongside the caption "This is him here."

What followed was a barrage of online abuse directed at Salem. This drew huge criticism online, with many suggesting the man's political affiliation is irrelevant, and that exposing him to personal vitriol was deeply unprofessional.

However, writing for The Spectator, James Kirkup said Kuenssberg was just doing her job, so everyone should "leave her alone", like she's Britney Spears having a press-induced breakdown in 2007.

“Why waste pixels on the actions of a horrible mob intent on abusing a journalist for doing the basic job of journalism: reporting facts?" Kirkup wrote, while also saying that it "came to light – via the Downing Street spokesman previously known as Guido Fawkes – that the man in question was Omar Salem, who describes himself as a Labour activist", and Kunessberg merely “quote-tweeted Mr Salem, allowing her own followers to see his words”.

It's a strange state off affairs when the press team for an impartial news source enthusiastically smashes RT on articles published by The Spectator (whose list of former editors include Boris Johnson) in defence of one of their journalists sharing information from Guido Fawkes, but this is where we're at. The BBC PR team also tweeted a strange defensive screenshot of a post clearly written on iPhone notes.

What Kirkup and many others online have conveniently side-stepped is that what Kunessberg did was allow the story to move away from the confrontation at the hospital and towards the fact that the angry father happens to support a political party that’s not in power. By Kuenssberg phrasing it the way she did, it made it seems like the whole incident was planned activism by a Labour supporter, meaning Tory MPs like Lucy Allan were able to relish quote-tweeting Kuenssberg's baiting remark with "Well, what a surprise?!"

No one disputes that "reporting facts" is an essential part of being a responsible journalist, but what Kuenssberg has managed to achieve is to make it the least pertinent part the most relevant. Boris Johnson lying through his teeth? Sound. NHS being run into the ground? Merely a political stick being used by the "Corbynistas" to attack Boris!

Regardless of political party, leave or remain, tens of millions of people in the UK are dissatisfied with the way the NHS is being run. Does a person's voting history matter when someone makes a pertinent, valid point? Or is that now only relevant when it’s someone who supports the opposition to the Tory party?

If the pile-on Omar Salem is considered journalism, while the "pile-on" Keussenberg is considered disgusting, I guess we must declare that all future pile-ons are exclusively organised by our political editors in the media, as British tradition dictates.

@MULLET_FAN_NEO

Tagged:
Boris Johnson
bbc
labour party
UK news
laura kuenssberg
Omar Salem
labour party activist