Former health secretary Hancock passed his messages to journalist Isabel Oakeshott who used them to help him write a pandemic memoir.
But Oakeshott subsequently gave the messages to the Daily Telegraph, which has published a series of stories about decisions made during the COVID pandemic based on their contents.
Oakeshott has received some criticism for leaking the messages, which Hancock says was “a breach of trust” but Hartley-Brewer said there is a “public right to know” the contents of the messages.
During her TalkTV show on Thursday, Hartley-Brewer asked Tory MP Miriam Cates: “Didn't the government breach our trust by doing this stuff to us without following the much vaunted science?"
But Dorries, who was the culture secretary under former prime minister Boris Johnson, took issue with Hartley-Brewer’s claims, telling her on Twitter: “When we followed the science, you were one of the government’s most vocal critics, for following the science!
“You can’t now pull the ‘not following the science’ card.”
Hi @NadineDorries. Er, no they weren't. The established "science" was existing pandemic planning. That was thrown out of the window again and again. There was no evidence for most of the Govt's policies other than "we need to be seen to do something". That ain't "science". https://t.co/e0q21mAoUa
— Julia Hartley-Brewer (@JuliaHB1) March 2, 2023
Dorries admitted that lockdowns were “painful” but were “based on the scientific advice”.
Responding to Dorries, Hartley-Brewer said the established science was “existing pandemic planning” and that “there was no evidence for most of the government’s policies other than ‘we need to be seen to do something’.”
Hartley-Brewer added: “That ain’t ‘science’.”
Watch: Hancock ‘hugely disappointed and sad’ after WhatsApp messages sent to newspaper
Oakeshott said on Thursday morning that she makes “no apology whatsoever for acting in the national interest” over the leaking of Hancock’s messages.
Hancock later broke his silence on the leak, saying he was “hugely disappointed and sad” at what he described as a “massive betrayal” by Oakeshott.
In a statement, he added: “I am also sorry for the impact on the very many people – political colleagues, civil servants and friends – who worked hard with me to get through the pandemic and save lives.”
He said there was “absolutely no public interest case for this huge breach” because all the material used for his Pandemic Diaries book was given to the COVID public inquiry.
But Oakeshott fired back at Hancock, saying: “The greatest betrayal is of the entire country.”
She added in a statement: “We were all let down by the response to the pandemic and repeated unnecessary lockdowns.
“Children in particular paid a terrible price. Anyone who questioned an approach we now know was fatally flawed was utterly vilified, including highly respected and eminent public health experts, doctors and scientists.“
Earlier, Oakeshott insisted she was not paid by the Telegraph for the messages, telling BBC Radio 4 that “this is about the millions of people… that were adversely affected by the catastrophic decisions to lock down this country repeatedly, often on the flimsiest of evidence for political reasons.
She said that Hancock saying the leak was a “breach of trust” was “a ridiculous defence”.
Oakeshott had claimed that she was threatened by Hancock in a late-night message – which he has denied.
But Oakeshott said that Hancock “can threaten me all he likes” and denied to withdraw her claim, telling Radio 4: “I’m saying that he sent me a message at 1.20am in the morning. It wasn’t a pleasant message.”
The latest revelations from the collection of more than 100,000 WhatsApp messages show Hancock was involved in a bitter behind-the-scenes clash with then-education secretary Sir Gavin Williamson over moves to keep schools open during the pandemic.
Other messages allege that Hancock rejected advice while health secretary to give coronavirus tests to all residents going into English care homes.