A Minister Is Facing A Formal Complaint After Wrongly Accusing A Reporter Of "Disinformation"
News outlet HuffPost UK has submitted a formal complaint to the Cabinet Office after minister Kemi Badenoch tweeted screen grabs of a journalist’s legitimate request for comment.
Badenoch accused reporter Nadine White of trying to “sow distrust” and spread “disinformation” after White privately emailed Badenoch to ask why she had not participated in a video of black MPs from different political parties encouraging black communities to receive the coronavirus vaccine.
Badenoch, the Treasury and Equalities minister, on Friday posted screengrabs of White's emails to her more than 38,000 Twitter followers, with a thread that said White's enquiry was “creepy and bizarre”.
It is standard journalistic practice to approach a subject with a request to comment on a story concerning them, which White did.
The Conservative MP tagged White in the thread. White has since made her Twitter account private after receiving abuse. Badenoch said it was an example of journalists looking “for conflict” and accused HuffPost of trying to “undermine our efforts to build trust in the vaccine by making absurd claims".
Jess Brammar, editor-in-chief at HuffPost UK, tweeted that White’s email to Badenoch was a “completely standard request for comment” and said the minister’s behaviour was “absolutely extraordinary".
“Young, female, Black journalists receive some of the worst abuse on Twitter, and to behave in this way is extremely disappointing - even before you consider that the person involved is the minister for equalities. We stand by Nadine for doing her job correctly, as she always does,” Brammar tweeted.
Brammer replied to Badenoch’s tweets saying: “The correspondence you have published here shows the opposite of spreading disinformation - as you know, it is correct and standard practice for journalists to check facts and approach people in public office for comment.
"I’m glad you highlighted our work on how Covid has hit Black people in the UK, much of which has been done by @Nadine_Writes. You will note that, contrary to your claim we were spreading disinformation, we have not published this story without your response".
White herself has praised the video, which featured MPs like James Cleverly, Diane Abbott, and David Lammy, and has recently spoken publicly about her sister dying after testing positive for the coronavirus.
Journalists and figures in British politics leapt to White’s defence, pointing out that at every step she followed journalistic protocol and extended her deadline by several hours in order to give the Conservative MP the opportunity to respond.
Labour MP Dawn Butler tweeted that White "asked a simple question" and accused the government minister of having "set some nasty people onto a young journalist who is currently grieving a family member".
PoliticsHome has asked the Cabinet Office for comment.