Kay Burley's Alton Towers interview causes controversy

Jun 12, 2015 at 12:44 p.m. ET
Image: Daniel Deme/WENN.com

Sky News broadcaster Kay Burley — known for her no-nonsense interview style — has been criticised for being "aggressive" when talking to Nick Varney, chief executive of Merlin Entertainment, the company that owns Alton Towers.

Burley was interviewing Varney on June 3 following a serious crash at the theme park the previous day, which left 16 people injured and resulted in 17-year-old Leah Washington getting her leg amputated above the knee.

"People were seriously injured, and there are suggestions that someone's lost a limb as a result of what happened at Alton Towers," Burley said. "Has somebody lost a limb on that ride?"

When Varney spoke about safety procedures on The Smiler ride, Burley cut in: "Let me just interrupt you there if I may, if you're happy that they were safe, why were people seriously injured?"

She also told him to remember "it's an interview rather than just a statement."

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In response to Varney's statement that Merlin Entertainment was "deeply sorry" for the accident, Burley said she was "sure [the family] are not interested in your sympathy at this stage."

The Guardian reported that media regulator Ofcom revealed on Wednesday that it had received 1,162 complaints about Burley's treatment of the Alton Towers boss.

A Change.org petition calling for Burley to be sacked accuses her of being "rude" and "patronising" and claims she tried to extract "highly confidential private information" on the injured parties. So far it has received over 35,000 signatures.

Some viewers used Twitter to express their concerns, calling Burley out for "pure rudeness" and being "so unprofessional." However others fought her corner, praising her for "asking the hard-hitting questions."

Many have asked the question would a male broadcaster be subjected to the same criticism? It does seem that — yet again — traditionally "masculine" qualities of assertiveness and strength are seen as being flaws when possessed by a woman.

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