LONDON — The BBC’s top executive resigned Saturday night after the prestigious broadcaster’s marquee news magazine wrongly implicated a British politician in a child sex-abuse scandal, deepening the crisis that exploded after it decided not to air similar allegations against one of its own stars who police now say was one of the nation’s worst pedophiles.
In a brief statement outside BBC headquarters, George Entwistle said he decided to do the “honorable thing” and step down after just eight weeks in the job.
“The wholly exceptional events of the past few weeks have led me to conclude that the BBC should appoint a new leader,” he said.
It was a rapid about-face for Entwistle, a 23-year BBC veteran who earlier Saturday had insisted he had no plans to resign despite growing questions about his leadership and the BBC’s integrity in the wake of the scandals.
Lawmaker John Whitting-dale, who chairs a parliamentary committee on the news media, said Entwistle had no choice but to go, since the BBC’s management appears to have “lost their grip” on the publicly funded organization.
“I think that what has happened in the last few days has immensely weakened his authority and credibility,” Whittingdale said. “It would have been very difficult for him to continue in those circumstances.”
A month into Entwistle’s leadership, the BBC was thrown into crisis with the revelation that its “Newsnight” program had shelved an investigation into allegations that Jimmy Savile, the renowned BBC TV host who died last year, had sexually abused several hundred children — cajoling some into having sex with him in his car, his camper van, and even in dingy dressing rooms on BBC premises.