ITV presenter Robert Peston has apologised for questioning Jeremy Hunt about the death of his sister when he was aged just two, during an interview on live TV.
The Tory leadership hopeful appeared taken aback during the interview on ITV on Wednesday evening, when the host raised “something rather extraordinary about your [Hunt’s] childhood”.
He added: “Could you just tell me a little bit about what that was?”
Hunt replied: “Well I don’t talk about that normally, and I wouldn’t say this is something that’s affected me emotionally because she was just a few months old when she died in a terrible accident and I was too young to ever remember it.
“But I do know it affected my parents.”
Despite Hunt’s reluctance to discuss the matter, Preston pushed him to discuss the tragedy further, saying: “It must have affected you, don’t you think? I mean, this is the sort of tragedy that has a profound affect on families.”
Hunt replied: “Well I was only two years old so it’s not something I have any memories of. But as I say, I do know it affected my parents.
“Maybe, when I met parents who had lost children in the NHS, maybe that triggered something in me, but I don’t know, I wouldn’t claim this is something that had a big affect on me personally.”
The clip was tweeted by the Peston Twitter account but drew a number of critical responses.
Writer James Felton, wrote: “Good lord, what the fuck made you ask him that? There are so many questions you could ask on policy and you chose to surprise him with a question about a personal family tragedy from when he was fucking two?”
Good lord, what the fuck made you ask him that? There are so many questions you could ask on policy and you chose to surprise him with a question about a personal family tragedy from when he was fucking two?— James Felton (@JimMFelton) June 26, 2019
I think he was trying to hold back the tears then. No fan of Hunt but that question is way out of line...— 🌻 (@pussycat8989) June 26, 2019
On Thursday morning Peston apologised in a tweet and said he had in fact asked Hunt before the interview for permission to raise the “terrible family event in his life”.
He added: ”My view was that it would aid understanding of him if he talked about it. Maybe I was wrong. Maybe I asked the questions clumsily.
“But I would never have entered such difficult private space without the permission of the interviewee. Sorry though to have upset so many of you.”
I have upset many of you by asking about this. But it was not a “gotcha” as you seem to think. I told @Jeremy_Hunt well in advance I had heard of this terrible family event in his life and asked if he would be happy to talk about it. He said yes. My view was that it would aid... https://t.co/S9nEhU92km— Robert Peston (@Peston) June 27, 2019
understanding of him if he talked about it. Maybe I was wrong. Maybe I asked the questions clumsily. But I would never have entered such difficult private space without the permission of the interviewee. Sorry though to have upset so many of you.— Robert Peston (@Peston) June 27, 2019
The Tory leadership contest is now down to just Hunt and Boris Johnson, with both men engaging in a flurry of media appearances.
After frontrunner Boris Johnson ducked a TV debate earlier this week, the normally buttoned-up Hunt decided to have some fun as he staged a question-and-answer session on social media.
Urging Twitter users to post questions with the #BoJoNoShow hashtag, the foreign secretary tackled the serious issues of the day - including Brexit, the NHS and austerity - using the 280-character format.
But more striking was the MP’s periodic attempts at humour, starting with a reference to the existing prime minister’s dress sense.