Man Without Qualities

Sunday, July 20, 2003

Beeb Baloney: Who "Sexed-Up" What?

One of the worst offenders in perpetrating the tedious "he lied" meme has, of course, been the BBC. The BBC has insisted that the Blair government "sexed up" intelligence on Iraq's weapons and inserted a claim that WMDs could be deployed by Iraq in 45 minutes.

Now the Beeb admits that it has been "relying" for most of its most biting criticism on comments of David Kelly, a British weapons advisers who recently took his own life after telling Parliament that he did not see how the BBC reporter to whom he spoke could have made the report he did on the basis of their conversation.

Which means that the BBC has been smearing the British government with an interview it long ago knew had been reputiated by its alleged "source," while the BBC hid behind journalistic confidentiality and did not tell the public that the BBC "source" (regardless of his name) had denied the report in the form published by the BBC. Richard Sambrook, the BBC's director of news, maintains that the BBC believes it correctly reported Mr Kelly's comments. But regardless of whether that is true, it is unconscionable that the BBC did not report until now that its "source" thought the BBC itself had "sexed up" what the "source" had actually said. It was not even essential for the BBC to name Dr. Kelly to admit the source of weakness in its report. (On an especially dotty note, Tory legislator Michael Fabricant is reported saying there is "no evidence to suggest the BBC had misrepresented the scientist's comments" - this in the face of Dr. Kelly's own statements to Parliament that the BBC had done exactly that. If Dr. Kelly's testimony to Parliament is not "evidence," what the heck is it?)

Nice. And the British taxpayers pay for this to be done to them.

Tony Blair has reportedly said he has no plans to resign over this mess - which is exactly right. However, the heads of the BBC should role - and the whole thing is an excellent opportunity for Parliament to disestablish the BBC from government support and ownership. One established church in Britain is much more than enough.

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