BBC scandal raises questions for incoming NYT boss

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The Sunday Times is published by News International, an arm of Rupert Murdoch’s global News Corp. empire, and has no corporate ties to The New York Times.

Thompson acknowledged being warned about what was happening at “Newsnight” by a BBC journalist during a company cocktail party late last year, but he said the journalist never “set out what allegations `Newsnight’ were investigating or had been investigating.”

Thompson said he followed the matter up with other executives who told him the “Newsnight” investigation was canceled for journalistic reasons _ suggesting that they believed there wasn’t enough evidence for an expose on Savile.

“I had no reason to believe that anyone in the BBC was withholding controversial or incriminating material,” Thompson wrote in his letter to Wilson, the lawmaker.

Wilson told The Associated Press on Wednesday that he has written to Thompson again seeking more answers.

“There are questions about how much the journalist told him about the `Newsnight’ investigation that need to be cleared up as quickly as possible,” Wilson said, adding that Thompson said he is willing to answer questions before the U.K. parliamentary committee looking into the matter and the BBC’s own inquiry.

Wilson said Thompson’s fitness to serve as The New York Times chief depends on the outcome of the various inquiries.

But The New York Times has already waited months for a new permanent chief executive following the resignation of Janet Robinson last December. One analyst said the paper could ill afford to wait any longer.

“My feeling is if he (Thompson) has no `problem’ that could surface in the near future there would be no need for him to delay,” said Edward Atorino, an analyst with The Benchmark Company. “If there is an issue he should withdraw.”

The controversy drew the attention of The New York Times’ public editor, Margaret Sullivan, who on Tuesday asked Times readers to evaluate the incoming chief’s answers.

“How likely is it that he knew nothing?” she asked. “A director general of a giant media company is something like a newspaper’s publisher. Would a publisher be very likely to know if an investigation of one of its own people on sexual abuse charges had been killed?”

In a carefully worded paragraph that followed, she raised the issue of Thompson’s fitness to serve as The New York Times chief.

“His integrity and decision-making are bound to affect The Times and its journalism _ profoundly,” she wrote. “It’s worth considering now whether he is the right person for the job, given this turn of events.”

Sullivan said while finding an answer was “not as easy as it sounds … all these questions ought to be asked.”

Sullivan’s office said Wednesday she would not be elaborating on her post.

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