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No 10 backtracks on support for minister who publicly attacked reporter

Kemi Badenoch, the minister for equalities, has come under fire in recent days for attacking a journalist for asking her a question - Credit: Archant

No 10 has begun distancing itself from a government minister who attacked a reporter for asking a question.

Equalities minister Kemi Badenoch has come under mounting criticism after publishing the private correspondence she had with HuffPost UK reporter Nadine White about her absence from a government coronavirus advert targeted at the BAME community.



Badenoch accused the reporter of “creepy and bizarre” behaviour for asking why she had not appeared in a video promoting the Covid-19 vaccination campaign.

White was forced to make her Twitter profile private following abuse she received after Badenoch shared screenshots of two emails the journalist sent to a government press office.

Critics have said the move amounts to a threat to press freedom.

No 10 has since backtracked on its support for minister after publicly defending her and calling her “great”.

Boris Johnson’s press secretary Allegra Stratton said: “That would not be how we in No.10 would deal with these things, and that we encourage all of you to ask us challenging, difficult questions as you are doing now.”

Asked if Badenoch should delete the tweet to draw a line under the issue, Stratton said: “I think this issue is best moved on from.

“I’m not in the business of telling ministers to delete tweets.”

LBC radio presenter James O’Brien said the minister’s actions amounted to “an affront to one of the most fundamental tenets of a functioning democracy”.

“This government minister is complaining about a journalist asking her a question. That is an affront to one of the most fundamental tenets of a functioning democracy – publicly attacking a journalist for asking a question rather than answering the question,” he said.

O’Brien reflected on what type society Britain would be if politicians upset with difficult questions turned on journalists in public, simply for doing their job.

“She asked the minister a question,” he repeated in frustration, “in a functioning, liberal democracy, and the minister responded by attacking her in public for asking a question.”

HuffPost UK editor-in-chief Jess Brammar has also tweeted her support for White.

“I totally refute the claim it is ‘creepy and bizarre’ to ask questions of a government minister, and Nadine was doing her job in asking them,” she wrote.

She later added: “One of my reporters has had to make her Twitter profile private today because a *government minister* tweeted out screenshots of a completely standard request for comment on a story, and accused her of spreading disinformation. Absolutely extraordinary.

“Young, female, black journalists receive some of the worst abuse on Twitter, and to behave in this way is extremely disappointing – even before you consider that the person involved is the minister for equalities.

“We stand by Nadine for doing her job correctly, as she always does.”

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