Care minister accused of ‘laughing’ while being quizzed about coronavirus deaths

PUBLISHED: 12:35 15 April 2020 | UPDATED: 14:02 15 April 2020

Helen Whately is interviewed on Good Morning Britain over the number of care home deaths due to coronavirus. Photograph: ITV.

Helen Whately is interviewed on Good Morning Britain over the number of care home deaths due to coronavirus. Photograph: ITV.

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A care minister has been accused of laughing while being quizzed about the number of deaths in care homes during the coronavirus outbreak.

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Helen Whatley is interviewed by Piers Morgan on Good Morning Britain. Photograph: ITV.Helen Whatley is interviewed by Piers Morgan on Good Morning Britain. Photograph: ITV.

Helen Whately was being interviewed by Good Morning Britain presenter Piers Morgan as the host held up the latest front page from the Daily Mail, which suggests up to 4,000 people could have died in care homes.

Whatley appeared to laugh as the presenter held the newspaper up, prompting Morgan to furiously ask: “Why are you laughing? I am telling you what it is. It’s actually very serious.”

But the minister pointed out he was holding up a front page she was unable to see.

“Why are you laughing? I am telling you what it is. It’s actually very serious,” continued Morgan.

“I don’t think it’s funny in the slightest,” responded the minister, who felt she was not getting a fair hearing.

She continued to smile as she explained the government position, only to be asked again why she was not looking more serious.

“I am not laughing at all. Please don’t suggest for a minute I am laughing. I have not been. It feels like you are shouting at me and not giving me a chance to answer.”

The minister accused the presenter of “point scoring” before claiming that it was better to believe the science rather than the newspapers.

“I don’t get my data from newspapers, I have to get it from the NHS and scientists”.

She added: “It’s not that I’ve not checked the number [of care home deaths], it’s just that every death has to be verified. The deaths have to be appropriately recorded, there is a process that needs to be followed. We need to make sure we are sharing accurate information with the public.”

Whately also defended voting against a pay rise for NHS nurses back in June 2017 when Labour proposed an amendment to the Queen’s Speech.

She insisted she has always “supported” pay rises for nurses, but called it a “political trick” when she was of many Tory MPs to vote against the proposals, while taking an increase in her own salary.


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Morgan said: “There is a lot of chat being given how much we value health workers, and yet when it mattered is when they could have done with a bit more money, to pay for the parking fines they are getting at hospitals, to pay for the PPE that so many of them don’t have either in care homes or on the NHS front line, or to pay for testing that they haven’t been able to get because so many politicians, celebrities and footballers have been ahead of them”.

OFCOM are investigating the interview after some viewers accused Morgan of “bullying” and not allowing the minister appropriate opportunities to reply.

But Morgan defended his interview on Twitter, writing: “Apparently some people found my interview with care minister Helen Whately today ‘uncomfortable’.

“For perspective, it probably wasn’t quite as ‘uncomfortable’ as what our under-protected NHS and carer frontline heroes are going through.”

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