Emily Maitlis said she wanted night off after reprimand - as petition hits 50,000 in just 12 hours

Emily Maitlis introduces BBC Newsnight

Emily Maitlis introduces BBC Newsnight with a summary of the government's reponse to the Dominic Cummings story. - Credit: BBC

Newsnight presenter Emily Maitlis has said it was her decision not to appear on the show on Wednesday night after she was reprimanded for her Dominic Cummings monologue.

Maitlis said she has been 'overwhelmed' by support from viewers as a petition in support of the presenter hit 50,000 signatures in under 12 hours.

The 49-year-old broadcaster tweeted: 'Been overwhelmed by all the kindness, messages - and support on here - and I've probably missed much of it.

'A big thank you from us all at Newsnight.'

Her absence the night after the monologue sparked suggestions that she had been replaced on the flagship BBC Two show, but Maitlis said she had asked for the evening off.

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She tweeted: 'So grateful to my friend and excellent colleague Katie Razzall for stepping in...

'She did so because I asked for the night off - knowing tonight's programme would be in the most excellent hands.'

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Razzall also tweeted: 'Just for the record, Emily Maitlis has not been asked by the BBC to take tonight off - and if I thought she had been, I certainly wouldn't have agreed to present the show.'

In her introduction to Tuesday's show, Maitlis said Cummings had 'broken the rules' and 'the country can see that, and it's shocked the Government cannot'.

She said: 'The longer ministers and the prime minister tell us he worked within (the rules), the more angry the response to this scandal is likely to be.'

The 'public mood' is 'one of fury, contempt and anguish', she said.

Following controversy over the monologue, the BBC issued a swift response, criticising the presenter's remarks.

It said staff had been 'reminded of the guidelines' around impartiality, adding that the corporation must 'uphold the highest standards of due impartiality in its news output'.

The programme 'should have done more to make clear the introduction was a summary of the questions we would examine, with all the accompanying evidence, in the rest of the programme.

'As it was, we believe the introduction we broadcast did not meet our standards of due impartiality,' the BBC said.

Good Morning Britain presenter Piers Morgan branded the BBC statement 'utterly disgraceful', saying the corporation was 'chucking one of its best journalists under the bus for telling the truth'.

National Union of Journalists general secretary Michelle Stanistreet said: 'At a time of national crisis, frank and fearless journalism that scrutinises and holds this government to account is more necessary than ever.'

She said it was 'clear as day' that Cummings breached lockdown rules, adding: 'Journalists should be congratulated for holding policymakers to account for actions that risk a monumental breach of trust during a public health crisis.'

A change.org petition in support of Maitlis hit 50,000 signatures after it was started shortly at 8pm last night.

You can sign the petition here.

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