Kay Burley’s future at Sky News was thrown further into doubt today amid concerns over letting the presenter return to hold Government ministers to account on TV over coronavirus rules if she has broken them herself.
Bosses ‘don’t really know what to do’ as they continue to investigate Miss Burley’s 60th birthday party in London on Saturday after four senior members of staff were taken off air amid mounting fury, a source claimed.
Political editor Beth Rigby is now expected to go unseen on TV like her colleague until Sky concludes an internal investigation into whether the party which allegedly concluded at Miss Burley’s house broke Covid rules.
Miss Burley’s fellow presenter Samantha Washington and North of England correspondent Inzamam Rashid have also been hauled off-air, with Miss Burley’s Sky career is now thought to be hanging in the balance.
She dined at The Century Club in Soho along with Miss Rigby, Miss Washington, Mr Rashid and six others. It is understood that the groups dined outside and sat across two different tables to comply with current rules.
Miss Burley was forced to apologise on Monday night for an ‘error in judgment’ and claimed she had ‘inadvertently broke the rules’ after the night out in London, which is in tier two of the regional coronavirus restrictions.
Miss Rigby, who has regularly grilled ministers on the pandemic but is not thought to have broken any Covid rules, went home after the dinner – but Miss Burley and some others walked across Soho to the restaurant Folie.
Miss Burley claims she ‘popped in’ after the 10pm curfew to use the toilet. Some of the group are then said to have gone on to her home to continue the party – something strictly prohibited by regulations on socialising indoors.
Now, as internal investigations continue, a senior industry source told the Daily Mail there was ‘real concern’ about letting Miss Burley return to hold ministers to account if she had broken the rules herself. They said: ‘How can you let her interview a minister about how our excess deaths are the second highest in Europe?
‘They don’t know how to get around it. She is very expensive but the ratings on her morning show are dire. So all sort of other things are coming into play here. Sky is taking it very seriously and they don’t really know what to do.
Sky News host Kay Burley (centre, in black) and Beth Rigby (right, in red) at the 60th birthday party in London on Saturday
Inzamam Rashid (centre), Sam Washington (right), and former royal correspondent Paul Harrison (left) also attended
Miss Burley (centre, hugging someone) and Miss Rigby (in red) are pictured after dinner at the Century Club on Saturday
It has been claimed Miss Rigby (in red) could avoid losing her job because she was only present for part of the evening
Miss Rigby is pictured outside the Century Club in Soho on Saturday after a dinner with Miss Burley for the host’s birthday
‘Kay is a very good broadcaster that is why she has survived all these years. They like to throw her in to anchoring live from crowded scenes where there are people around…. How could you do that now?
‘The Great British wit will crucify her now. I think they have a real problem with this. From the chief executive of the whole company, to John Ryley, the head of the news division, they regard this as a huge embarrassment and they wish it had never happened. And they doubly wish it never happened because they don’t know what to do.’
Miss Burley will remain off air until at least the new year as the investigation is carried out and she takes annual leave in Africa for a pre-planned holiday tomorrow. She is being replaced on screen by Niall Paterson.
Other colleagues may be back on television earlier, with sources claiming repercussions could be less severe for Miss Rigby as she was not believed to have broken any government regulations on the night in question.
Mr Harrison (left) and Mr Rashid (centre) also attended the dinner along with Miss Burley’s fellow presenter Miss Washington
Sky News employees Miss Burley (centre in black) and Miss Rigby (right in red) at Miss Burley’s birthday party on Saturday
Miss Burley looks set to be off air until 2021 after the party, attended by colleague and friend Miss Rigby (pictured together)
Miss Burley apologised following the party at private members’ club Century Club in London’s Soho (file picture)
The group’s fellow employees were yesterday told at an all-staff meeting that decisions would be made about the four presenters’ futures following the internal review.
How Kay and Beth got their teeth into targets
Speaking to Michael Gove on Sky News as he defended Dominic Cummings, Kay Burley said: ‘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.’ Miss 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?’
Interviewing Matt Hancock about Professor Neil Ferguson’s breach: She asked him: ‘What did you think when you read it? Did you bang your head on the desk?’
Mocking Mr Cummings on Twitter in July, she wrote: ‘So. Ibiza thwarted. Anyone know somewhere welcoming to stay in Barnard Castle?’
Beth Rigby asked Mr Cummings during his press conference in the Downing Street rose garden: ‘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?’
An insider told the Mail that Mr Ryley, said he was ‘disappointed’ in the actions of the four senior reporters and admitted some of them had ‘broken the rules’.
‘There is this internal investigation underway and that once that’s completed, and I think the expectation is that it will be completed very rapidly, then any decisions which need to be taken will be taken,’ the insider said.
They added: ‘John Ryley said he was disappointed that some staff had broken the rules, that the instruction firmly was that both, at work and not, all of Sky News staff were expected to obey the rules and regulations.
‘He was disappointed four people had broken the rules, but there was an inquiry underway and there was no more comment to make.’
Sky presenter Adam Boulton appeared to reveal his stance yesterday after sharing – then deleting – one observer’s tweet which described those who attended the party before a planned TV report from a hospital as ‘morons’.
Boulton later told the Guardian that his retweets did not necessarily constitute endorsements, but added: ‘That said, I retweet things because I think they’re of public interest, and certainly my feed has reflected a lot of people who are very concerned about the credibility of Sky News, and that I think is the important issue: the credibility of our journalism.’
The situation has caused ‘fury’ in the Sky News newsroom, according to BBC media editor Amol Rajan.
‘This is a source of deep anxiety among Sky News bosses,’ he said. ‘There is fury within the Sky News newsroom at the compromising of the brand, especially after Sky News has had a strong year.’
Those who are under investigation are said to be upset by the repercussions as they believed that the evening had been ‘Covid-compliant.’
A friend of a member of the group said everyone was ‘pretty devastated’ as some had worked for the channel for many years.
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
Adam Boulton, who has worked with Kay for 31 years, retweeted a message branding the partygoers ‘morons’
Miss Rigby and Miss Burley, pictured hugging outside 10 Downing Street in London, are known to be close friends
Inzamam Rashid (left) and Sam Washington (right) have also been taken off air while an internal inquiry is carried out
Miss Burley said that she spent Saturday night at a ‘Covid-compliant restaurant’ in London before flouting tier two restrictions by using a toilet in another restaurant at 11pm
Miss 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.
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.
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 of your household, although a loophole allows business meetings to take place inside.
Groups from different households are allowed to dine in outside terraces and al fresco areas. The Century Club has a heated outdoor roof terrace.
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
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’.
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
By her early 20s, Miss 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.’
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 Miss 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.
In 2008, Miss Burley clashed with a photographer during the scrum outside a London court ahead of a case involving Naomi Campbell
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 Miss 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 herMiss self 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.
The fracas happened as they waited for supermodel Naomi Campbell to arrive to face charges for assaulting airport police
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.’
Miss 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.
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
Miss 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’.
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 Miss Burley joined by a host of politicians and critics.
Last year Miss 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 led to Miss Burley accused of her fair share of controversies.
Then-Prime Minister David Cameron meets Miss Burley during a reception to celebrate the achievements of women in the media at 10 Downing St on May 16, 2013
In 2008, Miss 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 Miss Burley.
The same year, Miss 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?’
Miss 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 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.’
Miss 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.’
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 Miss 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, Miss 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.
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’
Miss 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, Miss 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.’