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December 10, 2019updated 30 Sep 2022 8:42am

BBC and ITV political editors apologise for false hospital ‘punch’ claim in tweets

By Freddy Mayhew

The political editors of the BBC and ITV were forced to apologise last night after wrongly claiming that a Labour activist had punched a Tory advisor.

Laura Kuenssberg and Robert Peston both tweeted the claim, but later corrected themselves after a video emerged online that proved it to be false.

However it had already been picked up by a number of news outlets. It has since been debunked by fact-checkers at Full Fact.

Peston said he had been told about the encounter by “senior Tories”. Kuenssberg said she had been told about it by two sources, but both said it was clear from the video that these accounts were wrong.

Kuenssberg did not report the incident on the BBC News at Ten, but Peston told ITV News at Ten viewers: “One of Hancock’s aides was poked in the face, but despite what many of us were told by the Tories, it was plainly an accident.”

The error has led a number of UK journalists to question the use of unnamed party sources by political reporters, particularly during the general election campaign.

In the video shared online, Health Secretary Matt Hancock’s aide can be clearly seen walking into the outstretched arm of a Labour protestor, to which neither reacts in anger.

Hancock was visiting Leeds General Infirmary after the Yorkshire Evening Post and Daily Mirror published an image of a four-year-old boy with pneumonia sleeping on the floor of the hospital because of what they claim was a lack of bed space.

The visit came after Tory leader Boris Johnson pocketed an ITV reporter’s phone after refusing to look at the image of the boy.

Picture: Twitter/@bbclaurak

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