A right-wing commentator who said Covid-19 had “disappeared” has admitted he was wrong during an on-air grilling on the BBC.
Lockdown Sceptics editor Toby Young claimed in June that coronavirus “had all but disappeared” and questioned the need for social distancing.
Young was confronted over claims during a debate on free speech on BBC 2’s Newsnight.
“Let’s not conflate lockdown sceptics with Covid deniers. No one’s denying we’re in the midst of a Covid pandemic,” Young said.
“The argument we’ve made since the beginning is that the collateral damage done by lockdowns – the harms that lockdowns cause – is greater than the harms they prevent.”
But Young’s words fell flat once the show’s host presented him with an article he wrote in June last year.
“I have your article from June 25 and you say the second spike has refused to materialise, the virus has all but disappeared,” Emily Maitlis said.
“Then you say it’s becoming clear that the social distancing rules, even the one metre rule, are unnecessary and then you accuse the chief scientists of overplaying it so it doesn’t hurt their reputation.
“It’s not denying Covid per se, but it seemed to be ignoring that it’s actually amongst us.”
When Young attempted to defend himself by saying the virus was “constantly evolving”, Maitlis shot back: “You say it’s constantly evolving but would you take any of it back?
“Is there not a moment of contrition from you that you wrote this stuff down and published it?”
“Hands up, I got that wrong Emily,” Young responded. “But let’s not forget that was during the summer when social distancing and curfew measures were doing enormous damage to the hospitality industry.”
Many took to Twitter to vent their frustrations with Young.
Duncan Jones posted: “At what point do repeatedly and provably wrong talking heads cease to be useful interviews?”
Ah it's ok mate, it happens, who here hasn't at one point spread misinformation to an audience of millions therefore undermining the public health message during a pandemic and putting thousands of people in danger https://t.co/VTgX2HMCy6
— Jack Bernhardt (@jackbern23) January 6, 2021
Alistair Hamill wrote: “That moment when your argument for freedom of speech comes back to bite you as your own prior words are quoted against you and you misjudgments are exposed.”
That moment when your argument for freedom of speech comes back to bite you as your own prior words are quoted against you and you misjudgments are exposed.
The hands may be up, but there's not much sign of contrition here. https://t.co/axDDyYPXZt
— Alistair Hamill 😷 (@lcgeography) January 6, 2021
Others took aim at the BBC for hosting Young.
J Reynolds posted: “Given that he has very little of merit to say on anything why do they have him on?”
One user said: “He should never have been invited on to talk about something he’s been consistently wrong about.”
Another added: “Why not put emergency doctors on air and find a new generation of academics, scientists, entrepreneurs, writers and intellectuals who can talk sense.”