Damning photos show Sky News journalists Kay Burley, Beth Rigby, Sam Washington and Inzamam Rashid flouting Covid restrictions on Saturday by gathering for a party for the presenter’s upcoming 60th birthday.
Ms Burley and Ms Rigby attended a dinner indoors at the Century Club in Soho with eight friends and colleagues including Ms Washington, Mr Rashid and ex-Royal correspondent Paul Harrison, now a spin doctor for Huawei.
The identities of the five others have not been revealed. Ms Burley later ‘popped’ in to another restaurant after the 11pm curfew, and it was claimed some of the group then returned to her London home to continue the party.
Ms Burley is set to be off air until early 2021, with a source close to her saying she ‘doesn’t have a leg to stand on’ despite her apology for ‘inadvertently’ breaking the rules. However, Ms Burley muddied the waters last night after tweeting that she was always due to use her annual leave this month for a trip to Africa.
Political editor Ms Rigby and presenter Ms Washington have also been taken off air by Sky along with North of England correspondent Mr Rashid, who went along to Ms Burley’s party in London at the weekend.
The photos have emerged amid claims that Ms Burley ‘is not out of the woods’ just yet, as an ongoing probe into her birthday party misdemeanour could lead to her leaving the new channel. But sources within Sky told MailOnline there were layers to the breaches of Covid-19 laws – adding that there was a difference between Ms Rigby and Ms Washington, and others who went on to Ms Burley’s home.
Veteran colleague Adam Boulton tonight waded into the row and announced that Ms Burley’s actions had undermined the ‘credibility’ of Sky News, after appearing to back claims the group had acted like ‘morons’.
Sky News stalwart Mr Boulton, who has worked with Ms Burley since 1989, today retweeted a viewer’s angry message about the scandal, which said: ‘Look at the state of Sky News. The morons spent all summer preaching to us and now look at them! After illegally going on a bender, they were going to go to a hospital to put lives at risk!’.
In an extraordinary intervention, the Sky editor-at-large and former political editor said that his retweets were not necessarily endorsements – but he admitted that he retweets ‘things because I think they’re of public interest’ and said that ‘the credibility of our journalism’ is ‘the important issue’.
‘My view is that Sky has worked very hard during the whole Covid crisis and has taken a very clear line about public safety, and obviously something like this perhaps underlines [the importance of] that,’ he told the Guardian.
Ms Burley had grilled minister Michael Gove on No10 aide Dominic Cummings’s car journey from London to Durham, and also questioned Matt Hancock on Professor Neil Ferguson’s breach of lockdown to visit his girlfriend.
Today, all Sky staff attended a meeting at 1pm chaired by Sky News head John Ryley, with one source telling Guido Fawkes: ‘I think the big bosses would be mistaken if they think this is something everyone’s going to shrug off.’
Newsroom staff were today told that Sky’s far-reaching investigation into Ms Burley’s rule-flouting gathering in London was ‘ongoing’ – and were apparently warned not to imitate or follow her behaviour.
The revelation that she is still being probed came in a lunchtime meeting between executives and editorial staff which was held over the internet, a senior Sky source who asked not to be named told MailOnline.
The source also revealed that the TV anchor is admired for her professional approach to her work but ‘doesn’t exactly have a 100 per cent fan base at Sky’ – and hinted that the controversy could lead to her leaving Sky.
Sky News is owned by Comcast, which also controls US news media firms such as NBC and Universal Studios. Rupert Murdoch’s 21st Century Fox sold its shares in Sky TV to Comcast in September 2018.
As Ms Burley appeared to be fighting for her Sky News career, it also emerged:
- Bosses are said to have summoned Kay for a meeting at Sky’s Osterley campus yesterday for talks with head of news John Riley, director of content Christina Nicoletti Squires;
- Source close to Kay admits the star ‘doesn’t have a leg to stand on’ after 60th birthday bash;
- Two Sky staff who attended the party are said to have signed non-disclosure agreements yesterday as the broadcaster investigates, according to The Guardian;
- Ms Burley also understood to have been dropped from an entry to the Royal Television Society’s journalism awards for her breakfast show. Sky News has won news channel of the year for the past three years;
- Broadcaster insists she will be off air until 2021 because of a pre-booked trip to Africa – not because of inquiry.
Sky News presenter Kay Burley (centre in black) and Beth Rigby (right in red) at Ms Burley’s 60th birthday party on Saturday
Ms Burley and Ms Rigby attended a dinner indoors at the Century Club in Soho with eight friends and colleagues
Sources within Sky told MailOnline that Ms Burley ‘doesn’t have a leg to stand on’ – but said that Ms Rigby could avoid losing her jobs because she was only present for part of Ms Burley’s 60th birthday party
Ms Rigby, pictured outside Century Club in Soho after an indoor dinner with Kay Burley for the presenter’s birthday
Inzamam Rashid (centre), Sam Washington (right), and Paul Harrison (left) outside Century Club in Soho on Saturday
It is understood Ms Burley returned to her London home to continue the party with four colleagues, thought to have included Mr Rashid and ex-royal correspondent Paul Harrison but not Ms Rigby, who left after the meal
Sky News presenter Kay Burley (centre in black) and Beth Rigby (right in red) at Ms Burley’s 60th birthday party on Saturday
Kay Burley looks set to be off air until next year and other Sky stars at the event including Beth Rigby (pictured together) have also been taken off presenting duties pending an investigation
Kay muddied the waters by tweeting that she was always due to be on annual leave in Africa from the end of this week
Adam Boulton, who has worked with Kay for 31 years, retweeted a message branding the partygoers morons
A source within Sky told MailOnline: ‘Few can fault Kay for her journalism and presenting prowess, but she doesn’t exactly have a 100 per cent fan base at Sky. She isn’t the most popular of the presenters and one day she will leave the role. This has cast a very negative light on her and the colleagues she invited.
‘As one of the most senior and recognisable faces on Sky News, she was due to anchor the first Covid vaccines yesterday and she was absent. She was due to be presenting from a hospital. The others are also still under investigation but will likely stay on, but there is now a question mark over Kay’s future with Sky.’
Ms Burley was due to be on vacation until January 4 and is flying to Africa on Friday. The source added: ‘Her tweet about going on holiday hasn’t gone down as well as she might have hoped. It looks as if she was hoping that the matter was closed when she apologised, but it isn’t.
‘This is being taken extremely seriously and we have all been warned to be careful about following the Cover rules when in public. We are tested regularly for Covid with the results available within a few hours. Some of us want to know what happened to the party and whether they have been tested and importantly what the results were.’
Sources also claimed today that senior reporters Ms Rigby and Ms Washington could avoid losing their jobs because they were only present for part of Ms Burley’s 60th birthday party.
How Kay Burley has held others to account over coronavirus rule breaches
Kay Burley previously tore into cabinet minister Michael Gove after he appeared on Sky News to defend Dominic Cummings for breaking coronavirus restrictions.
The former aide to Boris Johnson had driven a 60-mile round trip to Barnard Castle from his Durham home earlier this year, breaking Covid lockdown restrictions at the time.
He claimed he drove to the local beauty spot to test his eyesight after experiencing loss of vision due to coronavirus.
In the Sky News interview Ms Burley asked Mr Gove: ‘If you are struggling with Covid-19 and you think you have a problem with your eyesight, what is the government advice?’
Mr Gove replied: ‘We advise people obviously to seek medical advice.’
Ms Burley responded: ‘So it is not to get in a car and drive half an hour with your four-year-old strapped in the back?’
The presenter, who has since apologised for breaking Tier 2 Covid restrictions, also previously mocked Cummings on Twitter.
In July she wrote: ‘So. Ibiza thwarted. Anyone know somewhere welcoming to stay in Barnard Castle?’
Sky political editor Beth Rigby, who reportedly attended Ms Burley’s birthday dinner on Saturday – although it is not confirmed she broke any coronavirus rules in doing so – also previously criticised Cummings.
During a press conference in the Downing Street rose garden in May she told Cummings: ‘Why are you so different?
‘What people see here is that there’s one rule for you… and another rule for them.
‘Do you think that you, at the very least, owe them an apology?’
Sky’s 1pm online meeting on Microsoft Yammer, which was attended by other senior leaders, had been planned three weeks ago and also saw chiefs present a review of the past few months and a look ahead at the Christmas period.
Last night with her future at Sky mired in uncertainty, Ms Burley muddied the waters by tweeting that she was always due to be on annual leave in Africa from the end of this week, saying: ‘Lovely people, whatever else you read be safe in the knowledge I was always heading to my beloved Africa on Friday to sit with lions. They kill for food not sport.’
But it is understood that Ms Burley – a bedrock of Sky since its creation 32 years ago – and others at the dinner have been taken off air while an internal inquiry is carried out into whether celebrations were ‘Covid compliant’.
A friend of a member of the group said everyone was ‘pretty devastated’ by their treatment as some had worked for the channel for many years.
But there also appears to be some anger amongst colleagues about the decision to party during strict national tier restrictions when being asked to hold ministers to account on screen over their handling of the crisis.
Critics have also blasted Beth Rigby, who was sent by Sky to grill Dominic Cummings after he flouted lockdown rules to go to Barnard Castle in May during the infamous press conference in the Downing Street garden. Ms Burley also tore into cabinet minister Michael Gove after he defended Mr Cummings.
According to the ‘i’ newspaper, Sky’s bosses dragged Kay out to the Osterley officers for a grilling yesterday morning where she is believed to have met Mr Riley and director of content Christina Nicoletti Squires.
After hosting the dinner for ten on Saturday, Ms Burley went in to another restaurant after the 11pm curfew. Mr Rashid also attended the dinner, during which the group spread out across two tables.
He appeared to have further breached Covid rules by travelling from his home in Manchester, in Tier Three, to the restaurant in Tier Two.
Upon leaving the venue, Ms Burley went to Folie restaurant, which was half a mile away, to ‘spend a penny’ while she waited for a taxi.
It is understood she then returned to her London home to continue the party with four colleagues, thought to have included Mr Rashid and ex-royal correspondent Paul Harrison but not Ms Rigby, who left after the meal.
Under Tier Two regulations, you are not permitted to mix inside your own home with people not from your household. You are also not allowed to eat inside a restaurant with anyone outside your household.
Groups from different households can dine on outside terraces and in al fresco areas. The Century Club has a heated outdoor roof terrace. Ms Burley wrote on Twitter after the news broke: ‘I want to apologise to you all for an error of judgement.
‘On Saturday, night I was enjoying my 60th birthday at a Covid-compliant restaurant. I am embarrassed to say later in the evening I inadvertently broke the rules. I had been waiting for a taxi at 11pm to get home. Desperate for the loo I briefly popped in to another restaurant to spend a penny.’
She is subject to an internal review, Sky confirmed. A spokesman denied anyone had been suspended and said: ‘A small number of Sky News staff may have engaged in activity that breached the guidelines.’
A spokesman for Folie said Ms Burley popped in to pay a bill from a recent food delivery and went to the toilet.
Ms Burley is understood to have blamed the situation on ‘misunderstandings’ in planning and organising the event, the Guardian reports. However, she has not addressed why people returned to her home after the dinner – a claim not thought to be in dispute.
Bosses hooked the Sky News presenter at the 11th hour,after she admitted ‘inadvertently’ breaching Tier 2 restrictions while celebrating her 60th birthday – which was reportedly attended by political editor Beth Rigby (pictured hugging Kay Burley)
Sky colleagues Inzamam Rashid (left) and Sam Washington (right) also reportedly joined in and are understood to have been taken off air while an internal inquiry is carried out
Kay claims she used a toilet at 11pm in a different restaurant while waiting for a taxi and then took a taxi to her home with friends
All of the Sky staff who ‘may’ have been involved are now facing a review of their conduct by their employer, which said it was ‘disappointed’ by the incident.
Ms Hewson announced on Twitter that she would be presenting the morning Sky News slot shortly after Ms Burley’s apology. While hosting Ms Burley’s usual news programme, Ms Hewson discussed the roll out of the coronavirus vaccine and Brexit with Health Secretary Matt Hancock.
A spokesperson for Sky said: ‘We place the highest importance on complying with the government guidelines on COVID, and we expect all our people to comply. We were disappointed to learn that a small number of Sky News staff may have engaged in activity that breached the guidelines.
‘Although this took place at a social event in personal time, we expect all our people to follow the rules that are in place for everyone. An internal process is underway to review the conduct of the people involved.’
In May, Ms Burley interrogated Michael Gove over his defence of Dominic Cummings’ lockdown-flouting trip to Barnard Castle. She also chastised Prime Minister Boris Johnson for not social distancing on Twitter.
About a picture of Johnson with Conservative MP for Ashfield Lee Anderson, who later tested positive for Covid resulting in the PM having to self-isolate, she wrote: ‘Doesn’t look like two shopping trolleys apart to me.’
The Sky News broadcaster told her 517,000 followers on Twitter that she was ’embarrassed’ by her behaviour, which she described as an ‘error of judgment’. She said: ‘I want to apologise to you all for an error of judgment. On Saturday night I was enjoying my 60th birthday at a Covid-compliant restaurant.
‘I am embarrassed to say that later in the evening I inadvertently broke the rules. I had been waiting for a taxi at 11pm to get home. Desperate for the loo I briefly popped into another restaurant to spend a penny. I can only apologise.’
Sky News broadcaster Kay Burley (pictured left) was replaced on her morning TV show by journalist Sarah Hewson (pictured right on Sky News) after apologising for ‘inadvertently’ breaking coronavirus regulations while celebrating her 60th birthday
Though she did not confirm where she had celebrated her birthday, Ms Burley apologised amid reports that she went to swanky private members’ club Century Club in Soho
The veteran journalist said that she spent Saturday night at a ‘Covid-compliant restaurant’ in London before flouting Tier 2 restrictions by using a toilet in another restaurant at 11pm
Kay Burley: The no-nonsense news viper who ‘hated being married’, got in a punch-up outside Naomi Campbell’s trial and was branded ‘a bit dim’ live on TV
By Amie Gordon for MailOnline
Kay Burley is the no-nonsense news viper who relishes holding MPs to account – but has not been without her own share of controversy in a broadcast career spanning more than three decades.
The ambitious anchor has risen up through the ranks of the broadcasting world and boasts ‘more hours of live TV than anyone else’, but regularly divides opinion with her forthright attacks on politicians.
The 59-year-old seldom talks about her personal life though did once admit she had ‘two successful marriages’ – but ‘hated being married’.
By her early 20s, Burley had already divorced her first husband, Steve Burley, whom she met aged 17, on a local newspaper in Wigan, and married when she was 19.
She moved to Sky when she was 28 and, three years later, met her second husband, football agent Steve Kutner.
By the age of 32 she was pregnant with their son, Alexander, but the pair split when he was one.
The mother and son remain close and in her Twitter bio she describes herself as, ‘Sky News founder member. Animal lover. Mountain climber. Impossibly proud mum.’
From left: Tony Blackburn, Peter Marshall, Derek Jameson, Andrew Neil, Alastair Yates, Rupert Murdoch, Penny Smith, Bob Friends, Kay Burley during the launch of Sky TV on February 5, 1989
In 2008, Burley clashed with a photographer during the scrum outside a London court as
The fracas happened as they waited for supermodel Naomi Campbell to arrive to face charges for assaulting airport police
She had a relationship with former Political Editor of The Sun newspaper, George Pascoe-Watson for five-and-a-half years but they separated shortly after he left newspapers for a job in PR in 2009.
In December 2017 Burley was joined at Piers Morgan’s birthday bash by her date for the night, British Airways pilot Jonny Knowlson, with whom she was spotted enjoying a night out at the Tate Modern two months earlier.
Jonny, who at the age of 30 was 27 years Kay’s junior, met the newsreader when she employed the help of four ‘strong, capable’ British Airways pilots to help her overcome her fear of flying earlier that year.
In 2011 Burley turned her hand to writing fiction, publishing her debut novel First Ladies; ‘ an irresistible cross between The Thick Of It and Jilly Cooper’ in which ‘the glamorous worlds of glossy magazines, TV and politics are laid bare’.
In an article for the Daily Mail last year, Burley said it was ‘nonsense that wrinkles are a better look for a mature woman’ as she spoke about how she’d treated herself to a facelift for her 50th birthday.
She admitted to ‘dabbling’ with Botox and fillers, as well as having a lower facelift, brow lift and bags removed from under her eyes.
She added: ‘Women, especially those in the public eye, are always more harshly judged than their male counterparts.’
The 59-year-old was born to parents Kath and Frank in Wigan, Lancashire at the start of the Swinging Sixties and has often praised her late parents for giving her an upbringing ‘full of love.’
She said the family had no money but her parents were ‘amazing.’
Burley began her journalism career at the Lancashire Evening Post and Chronicle, aged 17 before moving into broadcast as a reporter on Granada Reports in 1981 as a researcher for Richard Madeley and Judy Finnigan.
By 1985 she’d been offered a reporting job at TV-am before moving to Rupert Murdoch’s Sky in 1988 where she was at the helm of the fledgling Sky News.
Burley quickly moved up the ranks to become its leading reporter, breaking the news of Princess Diana’s death in 1997 and was live on air in 2001 when the Twin Towers in New York were attacked.
The 9/11 coverage earned her a Bafta, which she ‘keeps in the loo’.
Kay Burley presents to camera outside the Lindo Wing of St Mary’s Hospital on July 22, 2013 ahead of the birth of Prince George
She was handed a plum new gig in September 2018 when she was given her own show in her name, which 12 months later moved to the prime time morning slot and was rebranded Kay Burley @ Breakfast.
The agenda-setting gig – set up at the crux of Britain’s Brexit negotiations and the general election – is filmed live in Westminster and sees Burley joined by a host of politicians and critics.
Last year Burley admitted she ‘found it difficult to resist’ being ‘sucked in by the aura’ and charisma of political figureheads including Boris Johnson, Bill Clinton and Tony Blair.
But sitting in the hotseat at Sky has lead to Burley accused of her fair share of controversies.
In 2008, Burley clashed with a photographer during the scrum outside a London court as they waited for supermodel Naomi Campbell to arrive to face charges for assaulting airport police.
The newscaster was apparently hit in the cheek by a camera – and was then seen with her hand around a photographer’s throat.
The bust-up happened as 100 journalists fought to get a view of the model at Uxbridge Magistrates Court in North-West London.
There were suggestions that the photographer, Kirsty Wigglesworth from the Associated Press agency, had bumped into Ms Burley.
The same year, Burley was deluged with criticism when she asked the wife of Suffolk serial killer Steve Wright, ‘Do you think if you’d had a better sex life he wouldn’t have done this?’
In 2010, she had to apologise for joking that Catholic US Vice President Joe Biden, who had ashes on his forehead to mark Ash Wednesday, had a ‘bruise’ that he’d picked up from ‘walking into a door’.
Labour MP Chris Bryant later told her, ‘You seem to be a bit dim, if you don’t mind me saying.’
Burley hit back: ‘That’s the first time anyone’s said on TV that I’m dim and it was water off a duck’s back. There’s a photo of Chris Bryant on the internet in his underpants that he took for a gay website. One can judge who’s the most dim.’
Then-Prime Minister David Cameron meets Burley during a reception to celebrate the achievements of women in the media at 10 Downing St on May 16, 2013
Burley admitted she ‘found it difficult to resist’ being ‘sucked in by the aura’ and charisma of political figureheads including Bill Clinton, Tony Blair and Boris Johnson (pictured together here in 2019)
In September 2019, she had an awkward stand-off with Brexit Party MEP Lucy Harris when she was accused of not being impartial and of having voted Remain. The conversation turned heated when Ms Burley accused Ms Harris of being over-the-top by saying Remainers wanted 15 referendums until they got the result they wanted.
Just two months later, Burley provoked a slew of Ofcom complaints after she was accused of a ‘cheap stunt’ for empty-chairing Tory chairman James Cleverly on her show.
Ms Burley showed an empty chair and claimed that Mr Cleverly had refused to appear – but he insisted he had not agreed an interview with her and was in the process of another interview.
The presenter repeatedly showed the empty chair and reeled off a series of questions which she had intended to ask him, sparking a raft of complaints from viewers.
At the height of the pandemic, Burley tore into cabinet minister Michael Gove after he appeared on Sky News to defend Dominic Cummings for breaking coronavirus restrictions.
She added: ‘What people see here is that there’s one rule for you… and another rule for them.’
In 2011 Burley turned her hand to writing fiction, publishing her debut novel First Ladies; ‘ an irresistible cross between The Thick Of It and Jilly Cooper’ in which ‘the glamorous worlds of glossy magazines, TV and politics are laid bare’