Maitlis Emily 5Newsnight presenter Emily Maitlis. Picture by Bill Heaney

By Democrat reporter

Emily Maitlis has been praised for her “extraordinary” introduction to BBC’s Newsnight in which she slammed “misleading” language surrounding the coronavirus crisis.

The host appeared to take aim at ministers for suggesting Covid-19 could be survived by showing “fortitude” and “strength of character”.

Opening Wednesday night’s programme, Maitlis also bluntly dismissed the idea that the illness is a “great leveller,” describing this as a “myth that needs debunking”.

Viewers took to social media to praise the presenter of the flagship political show, leading to her name trending on Twitter into the early hours of Thursday.

Maitlis began: “They tell us coronavirus is a great leveller. It’s not. It’s much, much harder if you’re poor. How do we stop it making social inequality even greater?”

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

“And the disease is not a great leveller, the consequences of which everyone – rich or poor – suffers the same.”

One person said of the opening: “As great and as brief a comment on the truth of the pandemic as we’ve yet seen.”

Emily Maitlis showed her skills as a forensic interviewer. Pictures by Bill Heaney

Another wrote: “This virus is not affecting everyone equally. We need to look after our most vulnerable. Excellently put by Emily Maitlis.”

Others described the opening message as “extraordinary” and “powerful”.

Maitlis said that some language used amid the pandemic has “often felt trite and misleading”.

And she said it was a “myth” character plays a part in how well a person can fight the coronavirus.uch, such as Dominic Raab as they spoke of Mr Johnson’s battle with the illness.

“I’m confident he’ll pull through,” said Foreign Secretary Mr Raab as he addressed the nation following the Prime Minister being taken into intensive care.

“Because if there’s one thing I know about this prime minister, he’s a fighter”.

Support for Maitlis’ comments comes as the Oxford Internet Institute publishes a report on misleading stories on Covid-19 of English language state-backed media in Russia, China, Iran and Turkey.


  1. Where we need to see enquiry, and the negligent brought to book is in the government’s deliberate decision to protect the economy by allowing the virus to spread on the flawed notion that by infecting over 60% of the population herd immunity would be created.

    Why when we are now going hell for leather to lock down the country to stop viral spread did we ever allow ourselves to go down this route in the first place.

    The reality is that there was never any public health justification for this policy. Our desperate actions now, tell us that.

    Against the World Health Organisation, and against the policies being adopted in countries like South Korea, New Zealand, Germany, our government, and in that I include the Scottish Government took the policy of deliberate spread. Indeed, you only need to think back a few weeks to realise how despite mounting concerns our government allowed mass gatherings like the Scotland v France rugby game and Lewis Capaldi concert in Aberdeen, when it was known that these gatherings would spread the virus.

    Concomitantly In England they allowed the Cheltenham Gold Cup Festival and other large gatherings to proceed.

    But that is the exactly the point. Our government/s wanted the virus to spread, with unbelievably, little preparation to secure adequate supplies of testing, PPE, or ventilators.

    And then on the 16th of March 2020 having deliberately spread the virus far and wide, having failed to test and trace, having failed to secure adequate medical kit, all hell breaks lose in a horrendous about turn to introduce lockdown to try to stop the spread, and avert a tidal wave of potentially hundreds of thousands of deaths in a short space of time.

    Most certainly brings home the callous logic of Dominic Cummings who said it was all about herd immunity, protect the economy, and if a few pensioners die too bad. And very much the same from Prime Minister Johnson who said that folks would have to take it on the chin losing loved ones before their time.

    So why no challenge before hand, and especially so from our own Scottish Government wholly in lockstep with the London government. Did our Scottish Government not have any concerns, or did they to accept the callous logic of protecting the economy and too bad if a few pensioners die, and let’s take it on the chin.

    Now it is incumbent upon us all to stay at home as the death toll rises and we desperately try to stop the spread.of the virus.But as we move forward in this crisis some big questions need to be asked.

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