Former Politician Calls Child Sex Abuse Allegations 'Rubbish'

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A former British politician who was wrongly implicated in child sexual abuse on a program produced by the British Broadcasting Corporation said Thursday, in his first public interview since the segment aired, that the allegation was "complete rubbish" and that the broadcaster should have called him to check it out.

The politician, Alistair McAlpine, a treasurer of the Conservative Party in the Thatcher era, was not identified by name in the report on the "Newsnight" program on Nov. 2, but the broadcast provoked a slew of accusations on the Internet relating to a decades-old abuse case at a children's home near Wrexham in North Wales.

The subsequent disclosure that Mr. McAlpine had been wrongfully implicated compounded a deepening crisis at the BBC with roots in an earlier decision by "Newsnight" to cancel a segment investigating Jimmy Savile, a longtime BBC television host now said by the police to have sexually abused as many as 300 young people over decades.

In the BBC interview, broadcast during a lunchtime radio program on Thursday, Mr. McAlpine said the suspicions surrounding him made him feel that "there's something wrong with the world."

The BBC has acknowledged that Mr. McAlpine was not contacted by "Newsnight" to comment on the allegation. His accuser, Steve Messham, a former resident of the children's home, has since withdrawn his accusation and apologized. The BBC has also said it did not make an effort to confirm the identity of Mr. Messham's abuser by showing a photograph of Mr. McAlpine to Mr. Messham.

"Of course they should have called me and I would have told them exactly what they learned later on," Mr. McAlpine said in excerpts from the interview posted on the BBC Web site, "that it was complete rubbish and that I'd only ever been to Wrexham once in my life. They could have saved themselves a lot of agonizing and money, actually, if they'd just made that telephone call."

Mr. McAlpine was asked about a remark by Boris Johnson, the mayor of London, that to call someone a pedophile was to "consign them to the lowest circle of hell -- and while they're still alive."

He replied: "Absolutely. I think it describes pretty much what happened to me in the first few days of this event.

"It gets into your bones. It gets into, it makes you angry. And that's extremely bad for you to be angry. And it gets into your soul and you just think there's something wrong with the world," he said.

Mr. McAlpine is seeking a financial settlement with the BBC, and his lawyer, Andrew Reid, told the same radio show that he hoped that an agreement would be reached on Thursday. The BBC said the same.

Mr. Reid said Mr. McAlpine was aware that any payment from the BBC would ultimately come from the $230-a-year mandatory tax levied on British TV set owners.

He also said Mr. McAlpine was seeking redress from anyone who impugned his reputation, either in mainstream media reports or on the Internet.

"What we're basically saying to people is, look, we know -- in inverted commas -- who you are, we know exactly the extent of what you've done. And it's easier to come forward and see us and apologize and arrange to settle with us because, in the long run, this is the cheapest and best way to bring this matter to an end," Mr. Reid said.

As the scandal over botched reporting and lack of editorial control spread, the BBC's director general, George Entwistle, resigned on Saturday, and two senior editors have withdrawn temporarily from their jobs while the episodes are investigated.

Mr. Entwistle had held the job less than two months after taking over from Mark Thompson, who left the BBC in September and is now president and chief executive of The New York Times Company.

Mr. Thompson was director general at the time "Newsnight" canceled the Savile inquiry. He has said that he knew nothing beforehand about the investigation or the decision to scrap it, but that he was willing to answer any questions from investigators.

world

This article originally appeared in The New York Times.


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