Not for the first time the Sun newspaper has created a media storm.
Now the geriatric media muti-millionaire (Murdoch) has used the Sun to make allegations against both an individual and an organisation using evidence that it is unable or unwilling to substantiate.
The tabloid broke the story with a front page article, claiming “a well-known presenter” gave a 20-year-old crack cocaine user “more than £35,000 since they were 17 in return for sordid images”.
This would appear to be a direct accusation that the presenter was commissioning child sexual abuse images, a serious criminal act that carries a prison sentence. It was this specific accusation that put the BBC into crisis mode, created a global scandal, and led to the presenter’s suspension.
The most powerful of the newspaper’s allegations was that the young person was under 18 when they allegedly began selling pictures to the BBC presenter, raising the possibility that a serious criminal offence may have been committed.
Yet if payments were made where are the bank statements in evidence?
For five days the British media, and social media, have obsessed with this story. Other news became irrelevant.
Last night the UK’s worst kept secret was confirmed – that Huw Edwards, the BBC’s leading news presenter, was the previously unnamed presenter.
While Mr. Edwards name was not originally published it was hard to escape his name on social media. Teams of investigative journalists started to swarm around this story in the search for other allegations. And there are some – from within and without the BBC.
Now the Sun is distancing itself from that element of the story, after the person at the centre of the story, now aged 20 and legally an adult, insisted the newspaper’s claims of illegal behaviour were “rubbish.”
Sources at the tabloid are now distancing themselves from this line and claiming the story was not really about potential criminal activity. Instead, they suggest it was more about concerned parents trying to stop payments to a vulnerable child with a drug habit.
MPs got involved – the suspects calling for the fall of the BBC. MPs that did not know anything beyond what was written in the Sun and in toxic social media posts.
The Deputy Chairman of the Conservative Party, Lee Anderson MP called the BBC a safe haven for perverts. Of course it is not – although this from a high ranking Tory really is the pot calling the kettle black.
The Metropolitan Police were called in to see if there was a criminality. The allegations centered on whether Mr. Edwards had solicited and paid for lewd pictures from a 17 year old. Remember that while the age of sexual consent is only 16 the age for online solicitation is 18.
The Met have concluded that there was no criminal action.
People with mental health issues do not always make the best of decisions or display the soundest judgment. Sometimes their actions may be no more than a call for attention – for help. But for Mr Edwards this help should have come much sooner.
The BBC was apparently approached by the mother and stepfather with evidence of the payments almost two months ago. But no action was taken; Edwards remained on air.
So the parents took their story to the Sun. Presumably without consulting with their now 20 year old son.
At worst Edwards appears to have displayed very poor judgement in his private life. But is that any or our concern? Is the revelation of what is done in private between two consenting adults somehow in the public interest?
Edwards’ high profile position makes this problematic. He is paid from public license fees. He is the face of BBC News; in a position of trust, influence and power.
Using that influence and power to fuel his personal desires cannot be justified. He should probably have been suspended when the first allegations were made.
His career is probably over. He will hopefully get all the support he needs. He is currently in hospital.
Former Downing Street head of communications Alastair Campbell said the presenter “is the perfect target for those who would undermine and indeed would like to destroy the BBC”.
“The police having said no action to be taken, whatever he did or did not do is a matter for him and his family, and for the BBC,” he tweeted.
“The obsession with this story has been a further sign of a media that has frankly become weird.”
It is hard to know what to make of yet another very British scandal – even the PM has opined on the issue. Nothing in the UK beats a celebrity sleaze scandal.