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Number 10 hits back at Channel 4 boss’s claim Boris Johnson is ‘known liar’ | Politics News

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Downing Street has hit back at a senior Channel 4 executive after she branded Prime Minister Boris Johnson a “known liar” and a “coward”.

Dorothy Byrne, Channel 4’s head of news and current affairs, prompted the dispute with Number 10 with her remarks at the Edinburgh TV Festival on Wednesday.

In a keynote speech, Ms Byrne said: “What do we do when a known liar becomes our prime minister?

“I’ve talked to journalists from several television organisations about this issue. They said they would be loathe to use that word ‘liar’.”

She added: “I believe that we need to start calling politicians out as liars when they lie.

“If we continue to be so polite, how will our viewers know that politicians are lying?

Ms Byrne also branded Mr Johnson and Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn “cowards” after accusing the politicians of dodging TV interviews in favour of “unregulated” appearances on their social media channels.

She compared Mr Johnson’s use of social media to issue statements since entering 10 Downing Street to Russian President Vladimir Putin’s fondness for talking “directly to the nation”.

Responding to the remarks, made by Ms Byrne as she delivered the annual MacTaggart lecture, a Number 10 source said: “It’s disappointing to see the head of a supposedly impartial news organisation decide to use deliberately inflammatory language to make a strong political statement.

“We will now consider our response.”

Earlier this year, during the Conservative leadership contest, Mr Johnson was “empty chaired” by Channel 4 after he refused to take part in a TV debate they organised for Tory candidates.

He did take part in debates organised by the BBC and ITV but declined to appear in a Sky News programme.



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Channel 4 news boss: Boris Johnson is a liar and needs to be held to account

Ms Byrne doubled down on her comments on Thursday, telling Sky News’ Kay Burley: “I think we do need to think as journalists, particularly TV and radio journalists, what we’re going to do if politicians don’t tell the truth.

“Because we’re British, we’re very polite about it and we use words like ‘strange’, or say, ‘oh perhaps that is not quite the case’.

“But, in these times, I think we need to be clearer with our viewers when politicians are not telling the truth.

“Because otherwise how will the viewers know that the truth is not being told?”

Asked what purpose she hoped to achieve with her remarks, Ms Byrne added: “One of the things that concerns us all, as journalists and voters, is that we look across the Atlantic Ocean at the United States where it has become accepted that Donald Trump lies as a matter of course.

“The Washington Post actually counted 10,000 lies. Some of his lies are simply stupid – for example, he said his father was born in Germany, he said the sound of windmills gives you cancer.

“So my concern is that we should not become like the US where truth is no longer regarded as something of primary importance.

“We must – both as journalists and as voters – say that a belief in the central importance of truth is vital for democracy.”

In 2017, Channel 4 news presenter Jon Snow was reported to have been “reminded of his responsibilities around due impartiality” after being accused of chanting “f*** the Tories” at Glastonbury.

At the time, Snow said he had “no recollection of what was chanted, sung or who I took over 1,000 selfies with” at the festival.

Challenged about the controversy, Ms Byrne told Sky News it was “an allegation that one person made on Twitter that was never proved”.

She added: “We must be absolutely duly impartial. If anybody who works for me is not duly impartial I can tell you they get into trouble.

“And also we have regulators to whom people make complaints… and they will hold us to account if we’re not duly impartial.

“We have to be fair and equal about talking about British politics.”

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