Tory equalities minister accuses young journalist of spreading ‘disinformation’ simply for doing her job

Equalities minister Kemi Badenoch secretly met anti-trans LGB Alliance

Conservative equalities minister Kemi Badenoch has accused a young female journalist – who committed the offence of asking Badenoch a question – of “sowing distrust” and “making absurd claims”.

Badenoch took to Twitter to accuse Nadine White, a HuffPost reporter, of being “irresponsible”, “creepy” and “bizarre”, sharing screenshots of an emailed comment request that White had the audacity to send her.

White has now been forced to make her Twitter profile private, after Badenoch’s eight-tweet thread about her “prompted a Twitter pile-on from some very abusive extremists”, according to HuffPost executive editor Paul Waugh.

Badenoch’s thread began: “A sad insight into how some journalists operate… On Wednesday, I shared our positive, well-received cross-party video to increase vaccine confidence in the midst of so much disinformation.

Today, an unfortunate reminder of why there is so much confusion and mistrust.Was in meetings all day yesterday and been made aware of two emails received from HuffPost journalist, Nadine White.”

Sharing screenshots of White’s emails – one to the treasury press office, where Badenoch is exchequer secretary, and one to Badenoch’s office – the Saffron Walden MP said that “disinformation is on the rise” and that White was “looking to sow distrust by making up claims I refused to take part in a video campaign…(which I suggested and promoted!)”.

As Jess Brammar, HuffPost editor-in-chief, put it: “The correspondence you have published here shows the opposite of spreading disinformation – as you know, it is correct and standard practice for journalists to check facts and approach people in public office for comment.

“I totally refute the claim it is ‘creepy and bizarre’ to ask questions of a government minister, and Nadine was doing her job in asking them.”

Brammar added that it is “absolutely extraordinary” that Badenoch “accused [White] of spreading disinformation” following “a completely standard request for comment on a story”.

“Young, female, Black journalists receive some of the worst abuse on Twitter, and to behave in this way is extremely disappointing – even before you consider that the person involved is the minister for equalities. We stand by Nadine for doing her job correctly, as she always does,” she said.

Online, incredulity at a government minister tweeting a comment request instead of answering it – though Badenoch did respond to White’s question in her tweet thread, she did not respond to White’s emails – sparked questions about press freedom.

ITV News journalist Charlene White asked: “So you’re telling me that we’ve reached a point where a journalist can’t reasonably ask a minister for a comment on a story, without a tantrum being thrown – and the journo’s request being aired publicly?”

And Kate Maltby, deputy chair of Index on Censorship, said: “Imagine being a minister in a government which promises to uphold media freedom around the world… and then trying to launch a social media pile-on on a journalist for having the temerity to give you a pre-publication chance to deny a story, and asking you for comment?”

White’s comment request itself was about why Kemi Badenoch, as a Black equalities minister, had not taken part in a cross-party video promoting vaccination among Black communities – though she had shared it on social media.

“I understand that Ms Badenoch, as equalities minister, refused to participate in the video. May I have a statement detailing the reasons why please?” White had asked.

Though she didn’t respond to White’s comment requests, Badenoch explained on Twitter that “the main reason I didn’t appear in the video” was because “I’m taking part in and promoting vaccine trials. Given the worst disinformation is that the virus is being ‘tested first’ on Black people, I thought it better to avoid mixed messages about volunteering to be tested”.

As one Twitter user commented: “You could of just written that in your reply to them, instead of taking to social media to cause problems.”

Kemi Badenoch has been contacted for comment.