BBC NEWS Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific
BBCi NEWS   SPORT   WEATHER   WORLD SERVICE   A-Z INDEX     

BBC News World Edition
 You are in: UK: Politics  
News Front Page
Africa
Americas
Asia-Pacific
Europe
Middle East
South Asia
UK
England
N Ireland
Scotland
Wales
Politics
Education
Business
Entertainment
Science/Nature
Technology
Health
-------------
Talking Point
-------------
Country Profiles
In Depth
-------------
Programmes
-------------
BBC Sport
BBC Weather
SERVICES
-------------
EDITIONS
Thursday, 18 July, 2002, 15:46 GMT 16:46 UK
Paxman sorry over Kennedy interview
Liberal Democrat leader Charles Kennedy with Jeremy Paxman
BBC Newsnight presenter Jeremy Paxman has apologised for questioning Liberal Democrat leader Charles Kennedy too closely about his drinking habits.

It follows House of Commons leader Robin Cook's complaint that many MPs were "taken aback and distressed at the degree of personal questioning" during Paxman's Newsnight programme that was broadcast on Wednesday evening.


Maybe there was one question too many on drink

Jeremy Paxman

During the interview, Mr Paxman told Mr Kennedy that every politician his programme had spoken to in preparing for the meeting had said: "You're interviewing Charles Kennedy - I hope he's sober."

The Lib Dem leader dismissed the comments as the "kind of thing that goes around the hothouse of Westminster".

"It matters if people allow that kind of rumour or allegation or slur to achieve a level of prominence that it doesn't otherwise require," he said.

'Moderate drinker'

Told that MPs from his own party were among those contacted by Newsnight, Mr Kennedy pointed out that he had just been re-elected unanimously as leader by Lib Dem members.

He said he drank "moderately and socially".

Mr Paxman also asked if he drank privately "by yourself, a bottle of whisky late at night"?

"No I do not," Mr Kennedy replied.

Charles Kennedy and Sarah Gurling
Mr Kennedy is shortly to wed
On Thursday, the BBC defended Mr Paxman's line of questioning, while the presenter said he was sorry for any offence caused.

"The questions put to Charles Kennedy about his personal life made up a short section at the end of an interview which largely comprised tough questions about policy and the Liberal Democrats' political philosophy," said a BBC spokesman.

"Mr Kennedy has answered questions about social drinking on several occasions in the past from print and broadcast journalists.

"It was not unfair for Jeremy Paxman to touch on the matter."

'One too many'

Mr Paxman added: "I have always found Charles Kennedy an affable chap.

"I am sorry if any offence has been caused. Maybe there was one question too many on drink."


When the mud is thrown, there is a tendency for the mud to stick and difficult to dispose of

Robin Cook
Mr Paxman spoke out after Labour MP Jonathan Shaw said questions in the Newsnight interview were "highly personal and irrelevant to political debate", which did nothing to enhance parliament or the BBC.

Mr Cook agreed, stressing that "when the mud is thrown, there is a tendency for the mud to stick and difficult to dispose of".

He said the BBC needed to reflect that it was a public service broadcaster, and it "should not seek to dumb down and compete with the bottom end of the market".

Wedding bells

During the wide-ranging interview the Lib Dem leader was also quizzed on his forthcoming marriage to Sarah Gurling.

Mr Paxman asked him: "Many people in this day and age decide not to do that but you are making a very public statement in deciding to get married?"

Mr Kennedy said: "Yes and so is Sarah making a very public statement, which in a way rather comes back to your last rather more personal set of questions.

"Anybody who knows Sarah Gurling knows that she's also an extremely serious-minded, career orientated person in her own right.

"She would not enter into something like this unless there was a fundament of seriousness about us and about our relationship."

Asked whether Ms Gurling kept him on the straight and narrow he said: "I suspect you should answer that rather than me. I suspect she rather does."

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
Charles Kennedy
Paxman quizzes him about his drinking habits
Charles Kennedy
Watch the Paxman interview in full
See also:

18 Jul 02 | Politics
28 Apr 02 | Politics
16 Feb 01 | Key People
11 Feb 02 | Politics
18 Jan 02 | Politics
Internet links:


The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites


E-mail this story to a friend



© BBC ^^ Back to top

News Front Page | Africa | Americas | Asia-Pacific | Europe | Middle East |
South Asia | UK | Business | Entertainment | Science/Nature |
Technology | Health | Talking Point | Country Profiles | In Depth |
Programmes