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August 22, 2022updated 07 Oct 2022 7:13am

Liz Truss versus the media: Her attacks on BBC and ‘left-wing’ questioning

By Charlotte Tobitt

Conservative leadership candidate Liz Truss has repeatedly criticised parts of the media since her campaign to be the next prime minister began.

On Friday, while appearing at a hustings event in Manchester hosted by GB News, Truss needled the BBC over its accuracy standards.

During an interview with Alastair Stewart, the ex-ITV News anchor made a mistake in a question by referring to a controversial proposal Truss had contributed to by saying it was in 2019 rather than 2009. He explained it as a “typo”.

But Truss stepped in to say: “I always thought you had high quality standards at GB News but…” with Stewart adding: “We do!”

Truss continued: “It’s not the BBC, you know, you actually get your facts right.”

To laughter from Truss and the audience, Stewart ended the exchange by saying: “Ms Truss, enough already.”

The exchange led to concerns of Truss undermining public trust in the media. Dan Walker, who recently left BBC Breakfast to anchor 5 News, tweeted that it was anincredibly dangerous slur. Dangerous for Liz Truss, for every viewer… for all of us” and adding that it was dangerous for “political discourse in the UK”.

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Ofcom’s most recent annual report into the BBC stated that audiences have rated the broadcaster “highly for trust and accuracy in news output” in every year since 2017. In 2021 71% of regular viewers of BBC TV news rated it highly for accuracy. There were wider audience concerns about impartiality, however.

At leadership hustings events Truss has previously both expressed willingness to decriminalise BBC licence fee evasion and to “reform” its funding model. (Her rival in the leadership race, Rishi Sunak, reportedly told a hustings event last month he would “be willing to scrap the BBC licence fee in future”.)

Truss has, however, backed the “vital importance” of the BBC World Service in the Commons and in particular its “soft power” in getting “balanced and truthful” news to people in Russia amid the Ukraine war.

[Truss vs Sunak: What are the Conservative leadership contenders’ plans for media?]

Liz Truss vs Tom Newton Dunn

Earlier in August Truss appeared at a hustings event hosted by TalkTV in Darlington in which she attacked the media several times.

She claimed “some of the media” tried to “talk our country down” and accused journalists – including TalkTV presenter and ex-Sun political editor Tom Newton Dunn who was chairing the event – of framing questions in a “left-wing way”.

Newton Dunn posed a question about helping people with their energy bills using tax cuts with the phrase “your handouts”, to which Truss interrupted to respond: “They are not giveaways Tom. This is people’s money, but this is the problem with the way that every question is framed.”

She added: “You’re framing it in a left-wing way Tom. I’m afraid the whole media does this all the time… it drives me mad.”

Newton Dunn also asked Truss if Boris Johnson’s downfall was of his own making, when a member of the audience shouted out that it was the “media” to blame. Truss said: “Sounds like you’re being blamed Tom and, you know, who am I to disagree with this excellent audience?”

She also later said: “I believe in Britain, unlike some of the media who choose to talk our country down.”

Newton Dunn attempted to defend his colleagues, saying: “For the record, that’s the third time you’ve attacked the media – a lot of which supports your campaign.” The Daily Mail, Daily Telegraph, Daily and Sunday Express and Evening Standard have all formally endorsed Truss to their readers in the leadership contest.

Truss was captured still on mic apologising to Newton Dunn immediately after the event finished. She said: “I am sorry I was mean about the media, Tom.”

Newton Dunn could be heard to reply that the jibes about the media were “cheap and you know it”.

Liz Truss addresses media attacks with Camilla Tominey

Two days after clashing with Newton Dunn, Truss appeared at a hustings event in Cheltenham, Gloucestershire, hosted by The Telegraph.

Truss said: “Today we’re sponsored by the Telegraph, and I would love the media to spend more time talking about trade deals.”

Host and Telegraph associate editor Camilla Tominey interjected to remind Truss that “you have written for us about trade deals”, to which the Foreign Secretary responded: “I have written for you on trade deals.

“But the point is that trade deals open the doors for business, but then we need to help businesses actually get their product into market.

“We set up the exports support service to help do that, but I would love to see the press write about that rather than about political rows.”

When asked by Tominey about how she had “had a bit of a go” at the media in earlier hustings, Truss said: “I had a go at Tom Newton Dunn, but you’re asking much sounder questions, Camilla.”

Picture: GB News screenshot

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