The BBC has privately apologised to ex-MP Harvey Proctor and admitted Naga Munchetty made an error in an interview with him on Breakfast – which he walked out on – while discussing Operation Midland.
Proctor was interviewed last month about the impact on his life of false accusations made against him, wrongly identifying him as part of a murderous “VIP paedophile ring” operating in Westminster.
The false claims were made by Carl Beech and led to a £2m police investigation that ended without arrest after two years in 2016. Beech is serving an 18-year jail sentence after his claims were exposed as lies.
Proctor (pictured) filed a complaint with the BBC after it dismissed viewers’ complaints over his interview with Munchetty on 5 October, saying she had conducted it in a “fair and understanding manner”.
He said he had walked out on the interview as result of Munchetty’s claim that Met Police Commissioner Cressida Dick had been cleared by two independent reports into the Met’s handling of Beech’s claims.
“She [Munchetty] said Cressida Dick… had been cleared by the IOPC [Independent Office for Police Conduct] and by Sir Richard Henriques’ Report. Dick had not been cleared by either,” he wrote.
An official response to Proctor’s claim has not yet been published online.
But BBC Breakfast editor Richard Frediani emailed the former Tory politician on Wednesday.
In the email, seen by Press Gazette, Frediani said: “I fully accept that while the IOPC did not find evidence of deliberate wrongdoing by the Met Officers it investigated, their investigation did not in fact refer to Ms Dick as the subsequent exchange suggested.
“I’m very sorry we got this wrong, but I hope you can accept mistakes can happen in live broadcasting and that this was not of course a lie (as Proctor had claimed in his complaint).”
Proctor also accused the BBC of “covering up” its error in dismissing earlier viewers’ complaints about the interview.
Addressing this, Frediani said: “These postings are designed to address the main substance of audience complaints the BBC receives, which in this case was around the general nature of the interview rather than any specific comment.
“While this posting has since been amended, we were not, of course, covering anything up as you suggest.”
Press Gazette asked the BBC to clarify what amendments had been made to its initial response to viewers’ complaints and was told that a line had been taken out that wasn’t supposed to have been there.
Frediani went on: “Naga was faced with a genuine editorial difficulty when you referred to Cressida Dick as a liar because of what she had said in an interview with another broadcaster.
“As Naga did not have a transcript of these comments in front of her she was quite properly conscious of right to reply issues should the interview progress further along these lines.
“I am, however, very sorry that you were upset by the exchanges and by our subsequent response but I hope I have been able to clarify what happened.”
Proctor told Press Gazette: “They do not like to admit it, but effectively they have upheld my complaint against her.
“What she said in defence of Dick on Breakfast was untrue. Strange then that the BBC write to me but seem not to want anyone else to know.”
Proctor claims Dick lied about aspects of Operation Midland during an interview on LBC radio in September. She said her involvement with the investigation was only “short and at the very beginning”.
A Met spokesperson said: “The Commissioner did not give a false account to LBC.”