Emily Maitlis hits out at 'absolutely appalling' coverage of Huw Edwards scandal

Former BBC star Emily Maitlis has hit out at the BBC for its coverage of the allegations against Huw Edwards.

On Wednesday, Edwards, 61, was revealed to be the suspended presenter at the centre of allegations, after claims an unnamed BBC star paid a young person more than £35,000 for sexually explicit images.

The Met police later confirmed there is no evidence of a crime being committed, and Edwards’s wife shortly afterwards released a statement on his behalf.

Vicky Flind said that her husband was ‘suffering from serious mental health issues’ and ‘is now receiving in-patient hospital care where he’ll stay for the foreseeable future’.

Following the announcement, BBC boss Tim Davie said an investigation at the BBC would ‘continue’, while it has since been claimed that Edwards’s conduct was actually being examined by Newsnight journalists including Victoria Derbyshire before The Sun’s allegations over the images scandal.

Speaking on The News Agents podcast, former Newsnight host Maitlis, who began by praising Flind’s ‘brave’ and ‘surprising’ statement, was left questioning journalism going ‘too far’.

She said: ‘When the story broke, there was an air of “something must be done”.

Vicky Flind’s statement in full, on behalf of her husband Huw Edwards

‘In light of the recent reporting regarding the “BBC Presenter” I am making this statement on behalf of my husband Huw Edwards, after what have been five extremely difficult days for our family.

‘I am doing this primarily out of concern for his mental well-being and to protect our children.

‘Huw is suffering from serious mental health issues. As is well documented, he has been treated for severe depression in recent years.

‘The events of the last few days have greatly worsened matters, he has suffered another serious episode and is now receiving in-patient hospital care where he’ll stay for the foreseeable future.

‘Once well enough to do so, he intends to respond to the stories that have been published. To be clear Huw was first told that there were allegations being made against him last Thursday.

‘In the circumstances and given Huw’s condition I would like to ask that the privacy of my family and everyone else caught up in these upsetting events is respected.

‘I know that Huw is deeply sorry that so many colleagues have been impacted by the recent media speculation.

‘We hope this statement will bring that to an end.’

‘Everyone knew that something had changed, and that this poor man was in hospital, and that was absolutely appalling, and yet obviously there will be journalists here saying “but that doesn’t stop us doing our work”.

‘So the “something must be done” means what? Everyone is essentially entrenching their own positions.’

Jon Sopel, who has joined the likes of Dan Walker and Alistair Campbell in sharing support for Edwards after he was hospitalised, said: ‘The Sun said, we’re not going to publish anymore about the allegations about Huw Edwards in light of the fact he’s in hospital with mental health issues, yet the BBC is.

‘Senior managers in news, do they not have the duty of care and responsibility that Tim Davie is talking about, about this duty of care that we have, Huw is employed by BBC News.

‘So for the managers to say we’re interested in journalism, we’re not interested in the duty of care is just Alice in Wonderland.

‘It’s very difficult to make sense of.’

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Emily added: ‘Whilst you never want journalists to stop doing their job, you are in a really weird place if the way that you raise your concern about a fellow presenter or colleague is not through a HR process, not through a complaints process, but by breaking a story about them because they’re famous.

‘And that’s the thing you can’t get away [from]. If that had been a manager, they would have just have had to go to HR but because they can get traction on a famous person – and to be honest we’ve all been at the centre of a media storm and having pictures splashed across the paper – it’s very easy for anyone to make anything into a story because you have a profile.

‘And I just wonder whether they would have broken that story if it hadn’t been that The Sun set the template.’

She went on: ‘BBC journalists like to think that they should be able to break a story that’s in their backyard.’

Sopel continued: ‘I suppose the thing that makes me uncomfortable is the idea that you see everything as a chance to get something on air that could get somebody down.

‘When if you see work in any kind of collegiate atmosphere, the more appropriate thing would be to say “this is out of order, you’ve got to reign it in,” or “look mate this is out of order I’m going to HR for what I’ve heard.”

‘But the idea of investigating it and putting it on air the night the person has gone into hospital, is the wrong side of the line.’

Sopel, who has held several roles in the past with the BBC, including being the broadcaster’s North America Editor, chief political correspondent of BBC News and working as a presenter on the BBC’s Politics Show, previously lashed out at the BBC’s coverage, saying: ‘This is an awful and shocking episode, where there was no criminality, but perhaps a complicated private life. That doesn’t feel very private now. I hope that will give some cause to reflect. They really need to. I wish @thehuwedwards well.’

Sopel posted another tweet regarding Edwards identity being revealed, criticising the way in which the BBC handled its coverage.

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‘Dear @BBCRadio4 @BBCNews, Well done on handling the breaking news about @thehuwedwards and the fact that he’s now being treated in hospital – but to then straight off back of that into a report on him facing fresh allegations of misconduct? That was just terrible,’ he stated.

The journalist also spoke to LBC, having worked with Edwards for more than three decades.

Addressing Edwards’s mental health, Sopel said: ‘Huw has talked in the past about his depression. The Sun initially made some very serious allegations on the Saturday morning: that he might have solicited photos from someone who was underage and had therefore committed a criminal offence.’

He continued: ‘I would also say that I think that some of my colleagues in BBC News need to look at themselves because I think some of what was said, reported, and led on last night again showed that [Huw] had a slightly complicated personal life. It didn’t show criminality.’

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