Tory minister to face no punishment after attacking journalist for doing her job

The Tory Equalities Minister is set to face no punishment for calling a journalist ‘creepy and bizarre’ for doing her job.

The Cabinet Office has dismissed a complaint against Kemi Badenoch because the tirade she sent was from a “personal” Twitter account.

The decision prompted anger from HuffPost UK, whose editor wrote: “If any member of the public were to tweet out emails sent to their work address, accompanied by a slew of false allegations, they would expect a swift call from HR.”

Award-winning HuffPost reporter Nadine White had sent a standard request for comment to a government press office, asking about allegations that Ms Badenoch had declined to take part in a video on vaccine take-up.

Ms White did not receive a reply and did not publish a story, nor did she publish anything about the allegations on social media.

But Ms Badenoch took to Twitter to attack the journalist’s credibility, branding her behaviour “creepy and bizarre”.

Downing Street refused to condemn the minister and she did not delete her thread.

The row led to an alert about the risk to media freedom being registered with the Council of Europe.

Cabinet Office permanent secretary Alex Chisholm has now responded to a formal complaint from HuffPost by saying Ms Badenoch is responsible for her own conduct on her social media account.

“I note that the tweets were not issued from a government Twitter account, but instead from a personal Twitter account,” his letter said.

“The minister is personally responsible for deciding how to act and conduct herself, and for justifying her own actions and conduct.

“As such, this is a matter on which the minister would be best placed to offer a response. I note in addition the Prime Minister’s press secretary has already provided comments on this matter.”

The Conservative MP for Saffron Walden’s Twitter account describes her as “Treasury & Equalities Minister”.

Boris Johnson’s senior adviser on ethnic minorities, Samuel Kasumu, has reportedly suggested Ms Badenoch may have broken the ministerial code with the tweets.

Downing Street stuck by the minister but press secretary Allegra Stratton said the MP’s handling of the issue “would not be how we in No 10 deal with these things”.

Ms White had asked a Government press office why the equalities minister had not appeared in a video targeted at minority groups to promote the Covid-19 vaccination campaign.

Ms Badenoch subsequently tweeted that HuffPost had sought to “sow distrust by making up claims I refused to take part in a video campaign” and said it was “creepy and bizarre to fixate on who didn’t participate in a video and demand they explain themselves”.

She also shared screenshots of two emails sent by Ms White to the department.

Labour said the minister had exposed the reporter to a “torrent of abuse online” and called for an investigation.

The Cabinet Office, which declined to comment on Mr Chisholm’s letter, has not launched an investigation into Ms Badenoch .


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