Emily Maitlis: 'The disease is not a great leveller'

Emily Maitlis has hit the headlines again today, after she delivered a big speech in Edinburgh, slagging off the BBC.

The former employee at the broadcaster criticised its coverage of Brexit and also accused it of cosying up to the Tories.

For doing so, she was praised on social media. But it is not the first time she's set social media alight.

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Indeed, over the years, she has attracted praise and criticism alike for her viral interviews.

Here are six of her best moments:

1. Her Prince Andrew interview

It was an interview that put Woking on the map, caused people to think carefully about whether some really can't sweat and led in part to Prince Andrew withdrawing from public duties.

Maitlis' 2019 interview with the disgraced royal also saw her win the Network Presenter of the Year award at the RTS Television Journalism Awards in 2020.

It's not everyone who gets to side-eye a member of the royal family on national television.

2. Her subtle apology for breaking BBC impartiality rules

Earlier this year, Maitlis retweeted a comment made by Rory Stewart, remarking on the "tawdry Trumpian shabbiness" of an interview with culture secretary Nadine Dorries about the Partygate scandal.

He had said: "It is difficult to see how much more of this the party or our political system can survive," and Maitlis got a slap on the wrist for circulating it.

So, she apologised by quote tweeting the tweet, therefore recirculating it again which people saw as a subtle non-apology. She wrote: "I have deleted my earlier retweet of the below and would like to apologise for the hurt I have caused.”

Nice one.

3. Her explainer on the Boris Johnson's flat refurbishment scandal

Last year, Maitlis received widespread praise on social media when she summed up the prime minister's flat refurbishment scandal, when the Electoral Commission was investigating how it was funded.

“This is not a story about furnishing, wallpaper and mood lighting, it’s not even a story about John Lewis. It’s a story about which money changed hands to pay for them, why it’s not been formally declared and why we still don’t know what happened,” she said.

"It matters because it involves standards, rules and integrity in public office and once those values start to erode, can the public ever expect to get them back?”

4. Her takedown of the Dominic Cummings Barnard Castle scandal

When the former adviser to Johnson made his infamous trip to Barnard Castle in May 2020, Maitlis did not seem impressed. In a monologue at the beginning of a Newsnight episode she said:

"Dominic Cummings broke the rules, the country can see that, and it’s shocked the government cannot. The longer ministers and the prime minister tell us he worked with them, the more angry the response to this scandal is likely to be.

"He was the man, remember, who always got the public mood, he tagged the lazy label of ‘elite’ on those who disagreed. He should understand that public mood. One of fury, contempt, and anguish. He made those who struggled to keep to the rules feel like fools, and has allowed many more to feel like they can flout them.

"The prime minister knows all this, and despite the resignation of one minister, growing unease from his backbenchers, a dramatic early warning from the polls, and a deep national disquiet, Boris Johnson has chosen to ignore it."

She was praised on social media and the clip went viral.

5. Maitlis VS Covid

And that was not the only time in the pandemic Maitlis was praised for her frank assessment. Early on in the pandemic, she slammed suggestions that the disease was a "leveller".

“You do not survive the illness through fortitude and strength of character, whatever the prime minister’s colleagues will tell us,” she said.

“The disease is not a great leveller, the consequences of which everyone - rich or poor - suffers the same.

“This is a myth which needs debunking. Those on the front line right now – bus drivers and shelf stackers, nurses, care home workers, hospital staff and shop keepers – are disproportionately the lowest paid members of our workforce. They are more likely to catch the disease because they are more exposed.”

And she added: “Those who live in tower blocks and small flats will find the lockdown a lot tougher. Those who work in manual jobs will be unable to work from home.”

She wasn't wrong.

6. The Edinburgh speech

As we said, Maitlis has received praise for comments she made at the MacTaggart Lecture at the Edinburgh TV Festival.

The journalist criticised their "both-sideism" approach to Brexit coverage and said it risked "obscuring a deeper truth".

“It might take our producers five minutes to find 60 economists who feared Brexit and five hours to find a sole voice who espoused it," she said.

“But by the time we went on air we simply had one of each; we presented this unequal effort to our audience as balance. It wasn’t.”

She also called BBC board member Sir Robbie Gibb, who previously worked as Theresa May’s director of communications and helped to found the rightwing GB News channel, an “active agent of the Conservative party” who is shaping the broadcaster’s news output by acting “as the arbiter of BBC impartiality”.

Earlier this year, Maitlis announced that she was resigning to join Global.

There, with fellow BBC correspondent Jon Sopel who has also resigned from the broadcaster, she will host a podcast instead - ending her near 20 year career with the BBC.

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