Piers Morgan has claimed he and Andrew Neil both saw it as a “personal journalistic badge of honour” that Boris Johnson refused to sit down with them for an interview during the general election campaign.
Morgan (pictured) also said he and Neil were in agreement “that if we were in his position at that stage of the election we would have blown us out too”.
“Why take the risk? He didn’t need to. You can get your medium and your message anywhere you like,” Morgan told BBC Radio 4’s Media Show.
The Prime Minister refused to sit down for a half-hour one-on-one interview with Neil on BBC One during the election campaign, despite all the other major party leaders doing so.
Neil ended his interview with Brexit Party leader Nigel Farage by calling on Johnson to set a time and place, telling him “it’s not too late” in an appeal seen by millions.
Johnson also turned down appearances on Channel 4 leader debates, and interviews with ITV’s Julie Etchingham and Morgan on Good Morning Britain.
When a GMB reporter joined Johnson on the campaign trail a day before the polls opened to ask him for a live interview, the PM said: “I’ll be with you in a second,” before heading inside an industrial-sized fridge.
Tory sources subsequently told the Guardian Johnson was “categorically not hiding” in the fridge, but was preparing for a pre-arranged interview.
Morgan told the BBC this was “complete and utter nonsense,” adding: “He literally ran into a fridge to hide.”
The former Daily Mirror editor said: “I think Boris deliberately hid away from any problematic interviews. I had this conversation with Andrew Neil.
“We had dinner together and we were talking about the fact we both had had promises reneged by Boris Johnson to do interviews and while we took it as personal journalistic badges of honour that he wouldn’t come and sit with us, we also agreed that if we were in his position at that stage of the election we would have blown us out too.”
Asked whether Spectator chairman Neil shared this view, Morgan said: “Pretty much. He was sort of like: ‘I don’t think I would have risked me either,’ so we were laughing about it and saying it makes us look good that we don’t get it.
“Actually, the problem for journalists is that people like Boris Johnson and Donald Trump, they can basically choose wherever they want to go and the internet will fuel that platform to the same level it would if they did a big BBC sit down.”
BBC media editor Amol Rajan questioned whether Neil had “overstepped the mark” with his monologue challenging Johnson.
“It is not too late. We have an interview prepared. Oven-ready, as Mr Johnson likes to say”
Andrew Neil issues a challenge for Boris Johnson to commit to an interview with him, to face questions on why people have “deemed him to be untrustworthy”https://t.co/daHLxEYn4r pic.twitter.com/oQ21uDdtJe
— BBC Politics (@BBCPolitics) December 5, 2019
But Morgan responded: “No, I loved it. I thought it was completely justified. I had absolutely no problem with it.
“It’s interesting because he is the antidote to a lot of allegations about the BBC. He’s not a woolly liberal like many of your colleagues, and I say that with respect to them, I’m a bit liberal myself, Andrew’s not that but he’s relentlessly remorselessly impartial. He tears everybody up the same way.
“He was, I think, let down by Boris Johnson. If you’re going to do the other leaders you’ve got to do the Prime Minister.”
Morgan also defended the BBC over its election coverage, calling “outrage” towards it “ridiculously overblown”.
Picture: Reuters/Mario Anzuoni