NY Times publisher backs new CEO amid BBC scandal

NEW YORK -- New York Times chairman and publisher Arthur Sulzberger Jr. on Thursday reiterated the company's support for its incoming chief executive, who has been under scrutiny in England over the BBC's decision to cancel a news story about one of its hosts being accused of sexually abusing children.

In a letter to the staff Thursday about the company's financial performance, Sulzberger said he was satisfied that Mark Thompson, who was the BBC's director general until last month, had no role in canceling a planned investigative segment about children's television presenter Jimmy Savile.

"In the months leading to our decision to bring Mark to the Times Co., Michael Golden, our vice chairman, and I, along with the rest of our board of directors, got to know Mark very well," the letter said. "Our opinion was then and remains now that he possesses high ethical standards and is the ideal person to lead our company."

Sulzberger concluded by saying that the Times would continue to cover the Savile story "with objectivity and rigor" after Thompson starts work at the Times on Nov. 12.

Police in Britain have said as many as 300 children might have been molested by Savile, an eccentric and popular character on radio and television for decades. After his death last year at age 84, BBC's "Newsnight" program was preparing an investigation into allegations that Savile had been a serial molester, but the piece wasn't aired.

Some BBC executives have been questioned by Parliament about what they knew about Savile's conduct or the decision to cancel the investigation.

A Times spokesman had voiced support for Thompson earlier, but Thursday's letter to the staff was the first time Sulzberger had weighed in on the matter in a public fashion. The Times named Thompson in August as a replacement for Janet Robinson, who left the newspaper company last December.