BBC's Robinson hits back at US critics

The BBC's political editor Nick Robinson has hit back at criticisms levelled at him in the American media following a White House press conference last week where he grilled President Bush.

A CBS journalist has accused Robinson of "grandstanding" and said the political editor "shifted the spotlight onto himself". The Chicago Tribune accused the British press corps of asking "impertinent questions".

Robinson told Press Gazette: "What I think touched a nerve was my suggestion of a widely held view that Bush had not previously counted for."

Robinson suggested to the US President that in describing the increase in attacks in Iraq as merely "unsettling" Bush would convince many people that he was still in denial about how bad things are in Iraq.

An apparently flustered Bush replied: "It's bad in Iraq. Does that help?"

Robinson said: "If the test of a good question is whether it provoked a revealing answer and succeeds in generating a good news line for the day then I think the question I asked passed.

"When Bush used the word ‘unsettling' to describe the situation in Iraq I thought, that's what you'd say after eating a dodgy burger, it's not the sort of response I'd expect from the President to describe the state of affairs in Iraq."

He said there was a tension at some press conferences between the UK and US reporters as: "We are more robust in challenging the official line."

One of the criticisms levelled by CBS at Robinson and the UK correspondents in general was that reporters were asking questions to "impress each other as much as anything else".

Robinson said: "Is that suggesting that people who work in television have egos? Of course we do.

"If we can include our own question in the report and generate more coverage from it — it would be disingenuous to suggest we would try to do otherwise. We're not choirboys, we have a job to do."

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