THE political editors of both the BBC and ITV were forced to apologise last night after they wrongly claimed a Labour activist had assaulted a Tory staffer.

Laura Kuenssberg and Robert Peston said they had been told of the attack by senior sources, but video footage seemed to show more of an accidental bump than anything deliberate.

The incident happened outside Leeds General Infirmary where Health Secretary Matt Hancock was meeting with bosses after the Tories were shamed by a picture of a four-year-old boy with pneumonia forced to sleep on the floor due to a lack of beds.

Earlier in the day, ITN’s Joe Pike had tried to show Boris Johnson a picture of the child, but the Prime Minister had grabbed the journalist’s phone and placed it in his pocket.

After the bizarre reaction sparked fury online, the party’s HQ sent Hancock to the hospital in a bid to quell the brewing row.

The National: Laura KuenssbergLaura Kuenssberg

However, Tory aides then briefed a selected group of journalists that on his way out of the hospital the Health Secretary had been heckled by a large crowd of protesters. The Tories claimed these activists had been sent to the hospital by Labour. The party then claimed that Hancock’s adviser had been “punched in the face” by a Labour “thug”.

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Kuenssberg tweeted: “So Matt Hancock was despatched to Leeds General (sorry not just Leeds Hospital), to try to sort out the mess, hearing Labour activists scrambled to go + protest, and it turned nasty when they arrived - one of them punched Hancock’s adviser.”

ITV’s Robert Peston claimed Hancock’s adviser had been “whacked in the face by a protester”. The Mail, the Express, the Sun, the Telegraph and the Guardian also quickly tweeted news about the punch. But actual video footage showed that this wasn’t what had happened at all.

It showed a handful of protesters, including a cyclist, wearing hi-viz, getting agitated with Hancock, and gesticulating with his right arm as he shouted “shame on you”, “we do not want you in this country” and “you are not welcome in this hospital”.

The minister’s adviser then appeared to accidentally walk into the man’s hand mid-gesticulation. The video footage sparked fury with calls for Kuenssberg and Peston to be sacked.

Guardian columnist and Jeremy Corbyn supporter Owen Jones tweeted: “I cannot believe this. A load of senior journalists, including [Kuenssberg] whose wages we pay, uncritically circulated Tory claims that a Tory advisor had been punched, which already led to right-wing media outlets making it a story.

“It. Never. Happened.”

The former Channel 4 and BBC journalist Paul Mason tweeted: “Let’s get clear what the BBC got wrong over the Leeds incident. It relied on a single, partisan source with no corroborative evidence, providing right-wing newspapers with a BBC branded fake news story.”

Kuenssberg later deleted her tweet.

She also shared footage of the incident, writing: “Have video from Hancock leaving Leeds General just come through so you can see for yourself - doesn’t look like punch thrown, rather, one of Tory team walks into protester’s arm, pretty grim encounter.”

The BBC journalist later tweeted: “Happy to apologise for earlier confusion about the punch that wasn’t a punch outside Leeds General - 2 sources suggested it had happened but clear from video that was wrong”

READ MORE: Laura Kuenssberg faces criticism over Tory 'punch' claim

Peston also apologised.

He tweeted: “It is completely clear from video footage that @MattHancock’s adviser was not whacked by a protestor, as I was told by senior Tories, but that he inadvertently walked into a protestor’s hand. I apologise for getting this wrong.”

A Labour spokeswoman declared: “The Tories are so desperate to distract from a four year old boy sleeping on a hospital floor because of their cuts to our NHS that they have resorted to bare faced lying.”

Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell tweeted: “Johnson and the Tories lie and they cheat to manipulate the media.

“A sick child treated on the floor of a hospital and they try divert attention with a dead cat lie story. Never has our politics sunk so low in our country since Johnson took over.”