Three Sky News senior reporters including political editor Beth Rigby have been taken off air along with Kay Burley for celebrating her 60th birthday in breach of Covid rules, employees were told at an all-staff meeting today.
North of England correspondent Inzamam Rashid and host Sam Washington have been taken off air along with Ms Rigby pending the result of an investigation following presenter Miss Burley’s party in London on Saturday.
Veteran colleague Adam Boulton appeared to back claims they acted like ‘morons’ for ‘illegally going on a bender’, with Miss Burley absent from presenting duties yesterday after issuing an apology for ‘inadvertently’ breaking Tier Two restrictions during the party in London on Saturday night and is set to be away until early 2021.
Sky News stalwart Mr Boulton, who has worked with Miss 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!’.
Today, all Sky staff were summoned to a meeting at 1pm, 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.’
Last night with her future at Sky mired in uncertainty, Miss 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 Miss Burley – a bedrock of Sky since its creation 32 years ago – and the others who attended 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, also including Ms Rigby, Mr Rashid and Ms Washington, 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.
As Miss 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 any internal inquiry;
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
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 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
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 head of news John Riley, director of content Christina Nicoletti Squires.
A source close to Miss Burley admitted she ‘doesn’t have a leg to stand on’.
Kay Burley and her close friend, Sky’s political editor Beth Rigby, attended a birthday dinner with eight other friends and colleagues at Soho’s Century Club restaurant. These reportedly included North of England correspondent Inzamam Rashid and presenter Sam Washington.
Ex-royal correspondent Paul Harrison, now a spin doctor for Huawei, was also said to be at the dinner, but the identities of the five others have not been revealed.
Miss Burley later ‘popped’ in to another restaurant after the 11pm curfew. It was claimed some of the group then returned to her London home to continue the party. Miss Burley later issued an apology for what she described as an ‘error in judgement’.
Late last night, Miss Burley tweeted 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.’
That means she is unlikely to be on TV screens until next year, and leaves her future at Sky mired in uncertainty.
After hosting the dinner for ten on Saturday, Miss Burley ‘popped’ in to another restaurant after the 11pm curfew. Sky colleague Inzamam 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, Miss 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 Miss 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. Miss 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.’
Bosses hooked the Sky News presenter at the 11th hour last night,after she admitted ‘inadvertently’ breaching Tier 2 restrictions while celebrating her 60th birthday over the weekend – which was reportedly attended by political editor Beth Rigby (pictured here hugging Kay Burley)
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
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?’
Back in May, Miss Burley grilled minister Michael Gove on No10 aide Dominic Cummings’s car journey from London to Durham. She also questioned Matt Hancock on Professor Neil Ferguson’s breach of restrictions to visit his girlfriend.
A spokesman for Folie said Miss 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.
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.’
Under Tier 2 restrictions, households are not allowed to gather indoors unless a one-person household forms a support bubble with another – but outdoor gatherings of six people are permitted.
Ms Burley has interrogated politicians for their perceived defence of breaches of shutdown restrictions by government officials.
After Neil Ferguson was forced to resign from the Government for flouting rules to enjoy secret trysts with his lover, she asked Matt Hancock: ‘What did you think when you read it? Did you bang your head on the desk?’
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.
Sky News broadcaster Kay Burley (pictured left) was replaced on her morning TV show by journalist Sarah Hewson (pictured right on Sky News yesterday morning) after apologising last night for ‘inadvertently’ breaking coronavirus regulations while out 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
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.’
Last night, 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.’
It comes after it emerged pop star Rita Ora did not self-isolate for 14 days after flying to Egypt for an event.
Rita Ora flew by private jet to Cairo on November 21 to perform at the five-star W Hotel. She returned the next day and under Government quarantine rules should have self-isolated for 14 days
Instead, she threw a birthday party on November 28 at the exclusive Casa Cruz restaurant in Notting Hill, West London, pictured
The 30-year-old singer flew by private jet to Cairo on November 21 to perform at the five-star W Hotel. She returned the next day and under Government quarantine rules should have self-isolated for 14 days.
Instead, she threw a birthday party on November 28 at the exclusive Casa Cruz restaurant in Notting Hill, west London.
Ms Ora was forced to apologise last week after she and around 30 guests were photographed at the event before the end of the second national lockdown on Wednesday.
Cara and Poppy Delevingne as well as TOWIE star Vas Morgan, 31, and Rita’s sister Elena, 32, were all seen at the venue.
While the singer said she was ‘deeply sorry’ for her actions and offered to pay a £10,000 fine for hosting the party, she did not mention her trip to Egypt or breaking a second set of strict rules.