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BBC 'apologises unreservedly' for Newsnight Lord McAlpine abuse report

By
Lord Mcalpine

© Rex Features / Mike Forster/Daily Mail

The BBC has apologised "unreservedly" for its November 2 Newsnight report connected with ex-Conservative Party treasurer Lord McAlpine.

Former Bryn Estyn resident Steve Messham had claimed on Newsnight that he had been abused at the home by an unnamed man who was a senior politician while Margaret Thatcher was prime minister.

Although McAlpine was not named in the programme, his name and the allegations were linked in the public domain - specifically on Twitter - causing him to release a statement earlier today "in order to mitigate, if only to some small extent, the damage to my reputation".

Messham later clarified that the abuser was not McAlpine, explaining police had shown him a picture of his abuser but incorrectly told him the photograph was of the peer.

"After seeing a picture in the past hour of the individual concerned, this [is] not the person I identified by photograph presented to me by the police in the early 1990s, who told me the man in the photograph was Lord McAlpine," Messham said.

He told BBC News he was "actually mortified" when he realised the mistake, and offered his "sincere and humble apologies".

BBC logo at BBC Television Centre
The BBC press office released the following statement tonight (November 9): "On 2 November, Newsnight broadcast a report that looked into criticism of the North Wales Abuse Tribunal. The report included an interview with Steve Messham, an abuse victim who said that a senior political figure of the time had abused him.

"We broadcast Mr Messham's claim but did not identify the individual concerned. Mr Messham has tonight made a statement that makes clear he wrongly identified his abuser and has apologised. We also apologise unreservedly for having broadcast this report."

BBC Director-General George Entwistle also tonight ordered the following actions:

1. A senior news executive has been sent in to supervise tonight's edition of Newsnight.

2. An apology will be carried in full on Newsnight tonight.

3. Ken MacQuarrie, Director BBC Scotland, will write an urgent report for the DG covering what happened on this Newsnight investigation.

4. There will be an immediate pause in all Newsnight investigations to assess editorial robustness and supervision.

5. There will be an immediate suspension of all co-productions with the Bureau of Investigative Journalism across the BBC.

McAlpine has stated that he is reserving the right to sue.

Tonight's Newsnight - hosted by BBC Radio 4 presenter Eddie Mair - contained the corporation's apology, as well as a discussion about the fiasco featuring Steve Hewlett and Esther Rantzen.

Signing off, Mair commented: "That's all we have for tonight. Newsnight will be back on Monday. Probably."

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