ITV news star Robert Peston forced into humiliating climbdown after falsely claiming Boris Johnson’s ethics adviser quit over plan to help Tory-linked firms
- Robert Peston was forced into a grovelling apology after he falsely claimed Boris Johnson’s ethics adviser quit over a plan to help firms linked to the Tories
- The ITV News political editor triggered a complaint from No 10 to his employers
- Mr Peston was forced into an embarrassing climbdown four hours after his claim
Robert Peston was forced into a grovelling apology yesterday after he falsely claimed Boris Johnson‘s ethics adviser quit over a plan to help firms linked to the Tories.
He wrote the ‘only conclusion to be drawn’ was that Lord Geidt resigned after being asked to approve ‘tariffs being imposed to help companies with connections to the Conservative Party or ministers’.
Mr Peston, 62, initially tweeted at 11.47am following the publication of Lord Geidt’s resignation letter.
The peer said he quit as the Prime Minister’s adviser on ministerial interests after being asked for advice on a ‘deliberate and purposeful breach’ of the ministerial code.
Robert Peston was forced into a grovelling apology yesterday after he falsely claimed Boris Johnson’s ethics adviser quit over a plan to help firms linked to the Tories
Downing Street yesterday declined to comment on suggestions from Whitehall sources that this related to a plan to maintain tariffs on Chinese steel despite it possibly breaching Britain’s World Trade Organisation (WTO) commitments.
Responding to Lord Geidt’s letter, Mr Peston tweeted: ‘The only conclusion to be drawn is that Geidt was asked to sanction tariffs being imposed to help companies with connections to the Conservative Party or ministers. Government source says what Geidt was asked to sanction had nothing to do with ministerial or party interests.
‘But what the PM says, that he wanted ethics advice on whether the UK were to breach WTO rules, is puzzling, to put it mildly. The code is all about the probity… of ministers, not about whether tariffs imposed in the alleged national interest are proper or not.
‘It seems as though Geidt was asked his view on whether the UK’s steel industry should be protected from alleged unfair competition from China? But why on earth would Geidt’s view matter. So weird.’
‘Red Wall’ Tory MP Lee Anderson added: ‘Peston is a very poor journalist that irritates the hell out of people in areas like Ashfield (in Nottinghamshire). He is clearly out of touch on all levels but we all know he is part of the media witch hunt to get rid of Boris’
But Mr Peston was forced into an embarrassing climbdown just four hours later. He wrote: ‘I apologise for my inaccurate language and getting it wrong in the tweet below. I should have said ‘a possible conclusion to be drawn…’, not ‘the only conclusion to be drawn…’
‘I made a mistake, not for the first or last time. I am sorry (not for the first or last time).’
A Whitehall source said: ‘There is a question for ITV about whether they are happy putting their authority behind his pontificating on Twitter – it must be damaging to their brand.’ Tory MP Mark Jenkinson said last night: ‘Peston is a perfect example of the ‘Remainia’ that continues to prevent some journalists from simply reporting facts.’
TV journalists’ posts on social media are not governed by communications regulator Ofcom but ITV and ITN’s policy requires ‘due impartiality’
‘Red Wall’ Tory MP Lee Anderson added: ‘Peston is a very poor journalist that irritates the hell out of people in areas like Ashfield (in Nottinghamshire). He is clearly out of touch on all levels but we all know he is part of the media witch hunt to get rid of Boris.’
On Monday Mr Peston posted tweets accusing the PM of ‘astonishing’ and ‘laughable’ behaviour over new laws allowing Britain to override parts of the Northern Ireland protocol.
He was accused of breaching ITV’s obligation to maintain political impartiality after tweeting that if Tory MPs kept the PM in office after Partygate it would make Britain look like an ‘elected dictatorship’.
TV journalists’ posts on social media are not governed by communications regulator Ofcom but ITV and ITN’s policy requires ‘due impartiality’.
A spokesman for the broadcasters declined to comment on whether they had spoken to Mr Peston or reprimanded him. But a source at ITN claimed he had ‘simply amended a tweet that he could see had been misinterpreted’.
They added: ‘It’s not uncommon for journalists to make clarifications on Twitter and that appears to be what has happened here.’
Minister brands him ‘Remainiac’
A cabinet minister branded Robert Peston a ‘Remainiac’ during a combative TV interview.
Attorney General Suella Braverman accused the ITV political editor of ‘make-believe’ and pretending the EU is ‘always in the right’.
It came as Mr Peston questioned her about the Government’s legislation allowing it to unilaterally scrap parts of the Northern Ireland protocol. The journalist claimed that the legislation – which she has personally signed off – ‘plainly breaks the law’ – to which a furious Mrs Braverman tersely responded: ‘That’s not right Robert.’
She added: ‘I’m afraid I’ve got to say this is your Remainiac make-believe if I may put it that way – that actually the EU is always in the right and the UK is always in the wrong.’
Mr Peston replied: ‘No, I think there’s a lot the EU does that is constantly wrong and I am definitely not a Remainiac.’