Questions about what former BBC Director General Mark Thompson knew about Savile, and when, are piling up on both sides of the pond. Even the New York Times is gunning for their new boss. Thompson left his £834,000 BBC gig on 16 September and started the $4M NYT job on 12 November. On 23 October – five weeks after quitting the BBC – Thompson wrote a letter to Tory MP Rob Wilson stating:
“During my time as director general of the BBC, I never heard any allegations or received any complaints about Jimmy Savile.”
Yet, it is now clear, thanks to freelance journalist Miles Goslett who has been investigating the Savile/BBC story for almost a year, and the Sunday Times, that on 6 September – 10 days before he quit the BBC – Thompson engaged lawyers Mills & Reeve to write a letter threatening to sue the Sunday Times if it published certain allegations about Thompson’s knowledge of the Savile scandal dating back to December 2011. This letter was published on the Sunday Times website yesterday.
Thompson now claims that he did not know exactly what Mills & Reeve’s letter contained and was not shown a copy of it before it was sent. This woeful explanation – the latest in a long line of laughable excuses – has been met with mockery in New York. The New Yorker’s John Cassidy wrote over the weekend:
“For his sake, I hope that Mark Thompson, the former BBC bigwig who recently took over as chief executive of the New York Times Company, rented an apartment rather than buying one. The way things are going, he could well be back in London pretty soon.”
Thompson – and the New York Times’ owners – must be getting worried. How long can they maintain their position when their own reporters are covering this story prominently in the newsroom just a couple of floors below Thompson’s own office? Meanwhile, there is only silence on this story from the place that likes to consider itself the newspaper industry’s noticeboard: Media Guardian. Odd…