The Transatlantic rumpus over alleged sexual abuse of children by the late BBC television host Jimmy Savile gets double coverage in the New York Times today. First up, this John Burns report on the latest developments in a scandal that’s turning the BBC into a pretzel.
LONDON — As the first of a battery of inquiries into Britain’s burgeoning sexual abuse scandal opened in a parliamentary committee room on Tuesday, lawmakers reacted with stunned incredulity and barely disguised anger as they sought answers to the painful questions being asked in every living room, commuter train and pub in the country.
How could this have happened, over decades, without action to stop it? How could some of the country’s most respected institutions — among them the BBC, the National Health Service, police forces in London and other areas, as well as the national prosecuting authority — have failed to bring the accused principal abuser to book? How could so many vulnerable young girls and boys — more than 200, according to the police — have been exposed to such vileness, for so long,and so blatantly, without anybody stepping in to help them?
The occasion was the opening of hearings by the House of Commons committee on culture, media and sport, and the matter at hand cascading revelations in the past month that have portrayed one of Britain’s most beloved television hosts, Jimmy Savile, who died last year at 84, as an insatiable pedophile, a predator who abused teenagers in children’s homes, in hospitals for the emotionally disturbed, in BBC dressing rooms yards from stage sets where he made himself a national idol.
Also being questioned: Why did the show “BBC Newsnight” kill an investigative report into Savile’s actions?
Here’s what the Times says:
Channel 4 television reported Tuesday that it had seen an e-mail from a BBC reporter, Liz Mackean, in which she said the editor of “BBC Newsnight,” Peter Rippon, who had shelved an investigative report she was working on, had diminished the seriousness of Mr. Savile’s abuse by saying of the victims, “The girls were teenagers, not too young,” and that “they weren’t the worst kind of sexual offenses.”
The second piece in today’s Times – and this is where it gets even more interesting – examines the role of Mark Thompson, former BBC head, future New York Times Co. CEO.
Mark Thompson, the former head of the British Broadcasting Corporation who has been drawn into the scandal involving allegations of sexual abuse against the former television personality Jimmy Savile, reiterated in an interview on Tuesday that he was not aware of an investigative report prepared for the BBC program “Newsnight” into Mr. Savile’s behavior until after the investigation was canceled.
Both in the interview and in a letter to Parliament, Mr. Thompson, who is also the incoming chief executive of The New York Times Company, said that he was made aware that “Newsnight” had been investigating Mr. Savile only during a conversation with a reporter at a company holiday party last December.
Thompson’s party line:”There is nothing to suggest that I acted inappropriately in the handling of this matter.” That’s about as good a defense as the Washington Generals put up against the Harlem Globetrotters.
NYT kissin’ cousin Boston Globe runs a perfunctory pickup of the Times report, with no mention of the Thompson mishegosss.
Ex-BBC chief accused of shelving sex abuse expose
The New York Times [NYT]’ public editor is questioning whether incoming Times Co. CEO Mark Thompson “is the right person for the job,” even as a British lawmaker has accused the former BBC director general of changing his story about the spiking of a news report on sex abuse allegations surrounding the late TV personality Jimmy Savile.
“Mark Thompson has already had to correct his version of events once. He originally implied that he knew nothing about the Newsnight investigation, before admitting that a BBC journalist had told him he had reasons to worry about it,” said Rob Wilson, a member of Parliament from Reading East, who has questioned Thompson’s role and whether there was a BBC cover up regarding Savile. “Now it appears he may have known more about the subject of the Newsnight investigation than he has previously admitted.”
The pedophile sex abuse scandal involving the late BBC TV host is the talk of Britain and the timing couldn’t be much worse for the Times, which tapped Thompson in August before the scandal erupted.
Of course, the public editor’s piling on doesn’t help either, especially with the headline “Times Must Aggressively Cover Mark Thompson’s Role in BBC’s Troubles.”
Ditto for the Globe, dontcha think?