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Newsnight’s Emily Maitlis Praised For ‘Saying What Needed To Be Said’ About Coronavirus

Lucy Connolly

| Last updated 


Emily Maitlis has been praised for her ‘powerful’ opening words on BBC’s Newsnight, in which she slammed the misleading language being used to describe the coronavirus pandemic.

The journalist and newsreader last night, April 8, held the UK government to task for ministers’ suggestion that the illness could somehow be survived by showing fighting spirit, following Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s admittance to hospital.


Maitlis also dismissed the idea that the health crisis impacts everybody equally and doesn’t discriminate, firmly describing it as a ‘myth that needs debunking’.

emily maitlisBBC

Opening Wednesday night’s programme, the newsreader told the nation what the government and other media organisations have so far failed to tell us: this is a welfare issue as well as a public health issue, with poorer members of society disproportionately affected.

She opened by saying the language used during the crisis ‘has sometimes felt trite and misleading’, adding: ‘You do not survive the illness through fortitude and strength of character, whatever the prime minister’s colleagues will tell us.’


This follows foreign secretary Dominic Raab’s implication that the prime minister would pull through because he was a ‘fighter’. Raab is currently deputising while Johnson remains in intensive care.

Dominic RaabPA Images

Maitlis continued:

And the disease is not a great leveller, the consequences of which everyone, rich or poor, suffers the same. This is a myth that needs debunking. Those on the frontline right now – bus drivers, shelf-stackers, nurses, care home workers, hospital staff and shopkeepers – are disproportionately the lower paid members of our workforce.

They are more likely to catch the disease because they are more exposed. Those in tower blocks and small flats will find the lockdown tougher. Those in manual labour will be unable to work from home. This is a health issue with huge ramifications for social welfare and it’s a welfare issue with huge ramifications for public health.

Tonight, as France goes into recession and the World Trade Organization warns the pandemic could provoke the deepest economic downturn of our lifetimes, we ask what kind of social settlement might need to be put in place to stop the inequality becoming even more stark.

Sign thanking NHS staffPA Images

Following her extremely honest and frank assessment of the current state of affairs in the country, Maitlis has been widely praised for saying what those in power have so far failed to say.

While one person described her introduction as ‘the strongest minute of current affairs TV since #Corona19 started’, another wrote: ‘Emily Maitlis with powerful words that needed saying tonight.’

Another wrote:


Loving Emily Maitlis – the clarity, confidence & truth of her words eludes every press briefing by the Govt. Iconic demonstration of what good journalism looks like.

While these words clearly needed saying, others pointed out that her words only seem ‘remarkable’ because it’s ‘so painfully rare’ to see the government held to account in this way, with many saying this kind of reporting now needs to be the norm.

Hopefully this will be a more common occurrence from now on, and others will follow in Emily’s footsteps.


It’s okay to not panic about everything going on in the world right now. LADbible and UNILAD’s aim with our campaign, Cutting Through, is to provide our community with facts and stories from the people who are either qualified to comment or have experienced first-hand the situation we’re facing. For more information from the World Health Organization, click here.

Topics: Film and TV, BBC, Coronavirus, government, Health, Politics, TV, UK


  1. ed_son/Twitter


Lucy Connolly
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