A Tory minister just leaked private emails from a HuffPost journalist

Kemi Badenoch and a tweet about a HuffPost journalist
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A Tory minister just leaked two private emails from a HuffPost journalist. She claimed this was because the reporter and the outlet were “making up claims” about her. The minister also accused them of “sowing distrust”. But the reality is, the journalist was doing her job. And it shows the increasing authoritarian attitude of the Tory government towards the media.

Meet the “equalities minister”

Kemi Badenoch is equalities minister. She’s hit the headlines on several occasions recently. Previously, Badenoch rejected Labour’s claims that “systemic injustice” was why Black and Brown people were dying of coronavirus (Covid-19) more than other ethnic groups. She said to Labour MP Zarah Sultana:

I’m not going to take any lessons from the honourable lady on race and what I should be doing on that. I think this government has a record to be proud of.

The UK is still systemically racist. But aside from this, Badenoch now has a problem with journalists asking questions.

Enter HuffPost

HuffPost‘s Nadine White emailed Badenoch. It was about a video made by cross party MPs. The short film was to encourage Black people to get vaccinated:

But Badenoch wasn’t in the video. As equalities minister, maybe she should have been. Someone had told White that Badenoch had allegedly “refused” to be in the video. As a journalist, this is clearly a story worth looking into. Why didn’t the minister responsible for promoting equality take part in a video that was promoting equality?

So, White emailed Badenoch, her office and the Treasury’s press office asking for comment. She also sent a follow up email as she hadn’t got a response from any of them by her deadline.

Badenoch could have replied with the standard “no comment”. Or she could have cleared up the rumour. But instead, she chose to publish the emails on Twitter. And she laid into White and HuffPost in the process:

Firstly, it clearly wasn’t White and HuffPost “making up claims” about Badenoch. Someone else seemed to have told them about Badenoch’s alleged refusal to take part in the video. Secondly, White was merely looking into a perfectly newsworthy story. So, why would Badenoch publish her emails? Why not just reply and be done with it?

“Sinister”

HuffPost‘s editor-in-chief Jess Brammar said on Twitter that:

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

But Newsnight‘s Lewis Goodall hit the nail on the head:

Oh, and he also suggested Badenoch may have broken government rules, too.

Much of the media have served to protect the Tory government during the coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic. But others, like HuffPost, The Canary and Channel 4 News, have tried to work in the interests of the public; that is – tell the truth about the Tories’ appalling handling of the pandemic. The government strong-arming journalists in the UK is nothing new. But it has, as Goodall said, become even more sinister in the age of coronavirus. Ministers inciting hate against the media is just the thin end of the wedge.

Featured image via Chris McAndrew – Wikimedia and Kemi Badenoch – Twitter 

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