Mark Thompson, former head of the BBC, is slated to become CEO of the NY Times on Nov. 12. However, Mr. Thompson has become embroiled in a monumental pedophilia scandal at the BBC, and questions have been raised, in Parliament and elsewhere, about what he managed to not know and how he managed to not know it.
Mr. Thompson has defended himself with two classic non-denial denials:
Mr. Thompson’s version of his role has shifted somewhat over the past 10 days.
In a statement released on Oct. 13, Mr. Thompson issued a blanket denial of any knowledge of the squelched BBC report. “I was not notified or briefed about the ‘Newsnight’ investigation,” he said, adding that “during my time as director general of the BBC, I never heard any allegations or received any complaints about Jimmy Savile.”
But on Tuesday, in a letter in response to Mr. Wilson, the Parliament member, Mr. Thompson appeared to adjust his answer slightly, saying, “I was never formally notified about the ‘Newsnight’ investigation and was not briefed about the allegations they were examining and to what extent, if at all, those allegations related to Savile’s work at the BBC.”
So as of Oct 13, Mr. Thompson's claim is that during his time as head of the BBC (i.e., 2004 to 2012) he never heard any allegations about Jimmy Savile.
Please - per his bio, he started at the BBC in 1979! Was his memory wiped clean when he took the corner office in 2004, or is he willing to deny that he never heard relevant rumors or innuendo from 1979 forward? Let's note that Mr. Savile was questioned in a 2000 documentary about pedophila rumors, so the notion was surely circulating.
And his latest denial is that he was never "formally" briefed. Is it his official view that gossip, back-channel contacts and friendly "heads-up" warnings about Mr. Savile wouldn't be relevant, if he had in fact received some? Is Mr. Thompson prepared to assert that he never, from 1979 forward, had any indication at all that the BBC was harboring a monstrous pedophile?
Times chairman and publisher Arther Sulzberger has chimed in with support for Mr. Thompson. However, questions have been raised which will not be answered before November 12, so sometime soon (All eyes will be elsewhere on election night!) the Times will announce a delay in this transition.
And as they wait the Times board will ponder the obvious - do they really need a See-No-Evil CEO running their news organization? Either Mr. Thompson is lying and he did have concerns about Mr. Savile, or he has the corporate antenna and finger-on-the-pulse skills of a garden gnome.