When New York Times CEO Mark Thompson was Director General of the BBC, he looked the other way as reports of rampant and insidious child abuse began to emerge about one of the network’s biggest stars, Jimmy Savile.
The scandal erupted after a BBC program canceled an investigation they were conducting on the BBC star’s activities dating back to the late 1960’s. According to a report published in the New York Times in November:
Mr. Thompson has said he knew nothing of the Savile investigation before it was canceled by the editor of the BBC’s “Newsnight” program. As for what he knew afterward, his statements have evolved: He first said he was unaware of the investigation, but then acknowledged he was subsequently told of its cancellation by a reporter at a cocktail party. He said while he “may have formed an impression” about possible areas of a Savile investigation, including his charity work, he was unaware of child-sexual-abuse accusations.
“His statements have evolved…” A fine euphemism, that. In other words, he’s trying hard to cover his tracks. Mr.Thompson claims he was unaware of the canceled investigation, which speaks of a hands-off management style that perhaps allowed the Savile abuses to continue unabated. However, whether or not he knew about the investigation at the time of its cancellation, there is no doubt he found out about it, and there is no indication that he did anything at all about it.
In fact, the only thing Thomspon seems to have done in the wake of the scandal was to get out of town and take a big job across the pond at the New York Times. Make no mistake, if Thompson had stayed, he would have been under extreme pressure and would either end up sacked or have to resign under pressure. Just look at what happened to his replacement:
The crisis has prompted the resignation of its director general, George Entwistle; a shake-up in its news division; and an inquiry that reported last month that lax leadership and “rigid management chains” had left the corporation “completely incapable” of dealing with Mr. Savile’s behavior.
Entwhistle resigned in a cloud of shame because the BBC’s “lax leadership and ‘rigid management chains’ had left the corporation ‘completely incapable’ of dealing with (the child abuse);” however, Entwhistle had only been director general of the BBC for 54 days! Thompson had been the director general since 2004, as the “lax leadership” was in full swing.
Joe Paterno also had “lax leadership” and “rigid management chains” at Penn State University, when the horrific Jerry Sandusky child abuse scandal was willingly overlooked in much the same way the Savile abuse was at the BBC. Yet, Thompson has been able to escape blame or scrutiny. In fact, the NY Times Corporation rewarded him with one of the most prestigious jobs in American journalism.
Will the New York Times address Thompson’s role in the scandal? It doesn’t appear they will, as evidenced by the article written about last week’s report on the scandal. Thompson’s name doesn’t even appear in the article. It’s like he wasn’t even at the BBC while Savile abused hundreds of children.
Joe Paterno’s statue was torn down when the Sandusky scandal came to light. The New York Times isn’t building a statue to Thompson, but they do appear to be building a wall around him to protect their CEO from any scrutiny or any accountability.