The biased BBC protected biting Mark Thompson but chewed off Jeremy Clarkson
So. Jeremy Clarkson, the BBC’s Gripper Stebson*, has been driven from the BBC. He leaves behind a bombshell-sized hole in the Beeb’s talent pool, a Top Gear producer with a split lip and dull-to-deadline James May and perky and predictable Richard Hammond to take the show forward.
Papers lead with news that sacked Jeremy Clarkson faces a “police quiz” (Daily Star and Daily Mail), “police probe” (Sun), “cop grilling” (Daily Mirror) and “police action” (Daily Express).
You cannot hit a BBC underling and get away with it. Well, not always you can’t. You see, in 2005, Richard Kay reported on an incident for the Daily Mail. The then BBC director general Mark Thompson had bitten newsroom colleague Anthony Massey.
Thompson’s 44-year-old victim suffered clear bite marks through his shirt, and immediately reported the incident. Their bosses were so determined to hush up the affair, however, that Massey was promptly sent to Rwanda on a perilous assignment. And Thompson, then a rising star, was allowed to continue his soaring career unhindered.
Thompson is the current CEO of the New York Times Company.
Thompson’s good fortune was to have bitten a colleague before the Sir Jimmy Savile saga turned the BBC into an apology factory – the institution that still refers to itself as ‘Aunty’ (with a family member like that, you’d best have Childline on speed dial.)
Kay went on:
The story has only become public thanks to a leaked e- mail exchange between Newsnight presenter Jeremy Paxman and Massey, in which Paxman observes that the director general ‘is quite clearly insane’.
The emails were reproduced for our entertainment:
Paxman: “I’ve got to interview Mark Thompson tomorrow. Is it true that he once bit you?”
Massey: “It is absolutely true… It was 1988, when he was the newly-appointed editor of the Nine O’Clock News, and I was a home news organiser. It was 9.15 in the morning. I went up to his desk to talk about some story. I was standing next to him on his right, and he was sitting reading his horoscope in the Daily Star (I always remember that detail). Before I could say a word he suddenly turned, snarled, and sank his teeth into my left upper arm (leaving marks through the shirt, but not drawing blood). It hurt. I pulled my arm out of his jaws, like a stick out of the jaws of a labrador. The key thing is, we didn’t have a row first, or even speak, and I had never had any dispute with him. He was recently arrived in the newsroom, and I hardly knew him. He just bit me in the arm for no reason without any warning or preamble. I don’t think it was personal. Something turned in his brain, and anyone who had been standing there at that moment would have been bitten, Linda from the teabar, the BBC chairman, Keith Graves, anyone. It just happened to be me. Thompson didn’t apologise or explain, so I went to complain to my then boss, Chris Cramer. All Cramer said was, “This whole place is full of f****** headbangers”, which was a fair point and indeed is still true, but didn’t help somehow. I wanted to bring the whole BBC disciplinary process down on Thompson’s head, but Cramer was desperate for that not to happen. So I got sent abroad on some story for a month or so, and when I came back it had lost momentum, and I never pursued it.”
Paxman: “The bloke is quite clearly insane. Bloody hell. If any of this came out, he’d be toast.”
Can it be that only front-of-house, right-leaning BBC staff get sacked for violence?
The BBC then issued a repsonse: “Mark did bite him but it wasn’t intended to hurt him. He thought he was doing something funny. When he was later told that Anthony thought he had ‘gone for him’, Mark went up and said sorry and tried to make amends. Mark does remember the incident because he remembers Anthony took it the wrong way. It was horseplay.”
No apology. No sacking. Just a sympathetic backstory about a misunderstanding.
Kay then delivered the best line of the entire affair:
Officials said no action would be taken against Paxman or Massey over the leaking of the e-mails – and denied Thompson read Daily Star horoscopes.
You can imagine the snooty reaction to any BBC wonk caught reading the Daily Star in anything other than an ironic way. If you want to enjoy tabloid popularism or bar-room wit at the BBC, you need to pretend you’re laughing at the newspaper and joke teller – or hire Jimmy Carr or some other Left-sanctioned voice to make the same crude, easy-target mocking comment with one eybrow raised to indicate that he knows what he’s doing and that his joke about Down’s Syndrome children is multi-layered.
You can keep your job at the BBC if you hold and espouse the same views as the liberal opinion-formers. Diverse views that reflect a diverse society are banned. And that means the end of Jeremy Clarkson.
* Gripper Stebson was the bully on BBC TV’s Grange Hill. The children’s show – which featured no end-credit health warnings inviting viewers troubled by what they had seen to dial a number for help – featured warts-and-all life at a fictional comprehensive school. It was brilliantly entertaining, unapologetic and risk-taking. It would stand no chance whatsoever of being commissioned by the BBC now.
This video is when Gripper and his two sidekicks get rusticated. How we cheered. and then, when he was gone, we really missed the unlovely scrote. You see, like all the best telly characters, he was so very entertaining: