Broadcasters offer warnings as Covid-19 Inquiry features string of expletives

Dominic Cummings referred to ministers as ‘useless’, the inquiry was told (James Manning/PA)
Dominic Cummings referred to ministers as ‘useless’, the inquiry was told (James Manning/PA) Dominic Cummings referred to ministers as ‘useless’, the inquiry was told (James Manning/PA)

Broadcasters scrambled to issue warnings and offer apologies as their live coverage of the Covid-19 Inquiry featured a string of colourful language and expletives.

The appearance of Lee Cain, Boris Johnson’s long-term adviser who served as No 10’s communications director in the pandemic, and Dominic Cummings, who served as the then-prime minister’s chief adviser, at the inquiry initiated a barrage of swearing as their Whatsapp messages were read out.

Broadcasters airing the inquiry live were forced to issue warnings about the nature of the language.

The BBC news channel featured the on-screen caution: “Warning: coverage may contain expletives.”

As Mr Cummings was sworn in after Mr Cain, viewers were told: “Just an apology to reiterate that there has been some very strong language, plenty of expletives, over the past couple of hours of coverage.

Covid-19 pandemic inquiry
Covid-19 pandemic inquiry Former Downing Street director of communications Lee Cain (James Manning/PA)

“This is as messages from those in between Number 10 were read out or have been read out, and that may well continue so apologies in advance, those are unedited and we don’t get any warning of those.”

Sky News also featured an on-screen warning reading “Warning: Offensive language”.

At the start of his evidence, lead counsel to the inquiry Hugo Keith KC told Mr Cummings: “Due in large part to your own Whatsapps, Mr Cummings, we are going to have to coarsen our language somewhat.”

Mr Cummings replied: “I apologise.”

Mr Keith proceeded to tell Mr Cummings: “You called ministers useless f***pigs, morons, c***s, in email and Whatapps to your professional colleagues.”

Mr Cummings said he was “reflecting a widespread view amongst competent people at the centre of power at the time about the calibre of a lot of senior people who were dealing with this crisis extremely badly.”

BBC viewers were told: “Just a reminder we are watching live unedited coverage of the Covid inquiry …There is more repeated expletives that we are hearing.

“We are repeating our apology on behalf of what you can hear but it is not within our control, unfortunately, what is read out there.

“Just a repeat of our apology that you are hearing some expletives and strong language.”