The Magazine

The Times's conservative beat, and more.

Feb 9, 2004, Vol. 9, No. 21
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In contrast to the almost complete exoneration of Blair, Lord Hutton had some choice words for Gilligan and the BBC. He called Gilligan's chief accusations against the government "unfounded," and concluded that "the editorial system" that permitted Gilligan's story to run unchecked was "defective." He also faulted BBC management for lack of oversight after Gilligan's broadcast, when it responded to the government's criticism by digging in its heels, rather than acknowledging and correcting its mistakes.

If all of this sounds a little familiar to readers, it might be because Josh Chafetz argued precisely these points in our pages five months ago ("The Disgrace of the BBC," August 25, 2003). In a subsequent letter to the editor, BBC Head of Political Programs Fran Unsworth wrote that, "Many of [Chafetz's] allegations relating to the story regarding the now notorious intelligence dossier which ended in the tragic death of Dr. David Kelly are best left to Lord Hutton to pronounce on in due course." Last week, Lord Hutton did just that, and Unsworth's bosses--BBC chairman Gavyn Davies and director general Greg Dyke--resigned.

New Hampshire Postscript

We hope you were reading the daily dispatches from the New Hampshire primary on But in case you missed them, here's David Tell's priceless description of the Dean demographic in action:

"Dean was doing his now-standard rap about the 'increasing concentration of the media' and how it's a 'huge problem' that nowadays 90 percent of Americans purportedly get all their information from the same 11 corporations. It matters a great deal where you get your information from, the governor explained. After all, a full 80 percent of people who watch Fox, along with 50 percent of people who watch CNN, still think Saddam Hussein had something to do with 9/11. But 'if you listen to NPR, only 30 percent' of you are likely to make such a boneheaded mistake.

"The moment Dean mentioned NPR, his audience--I'm not making this up--erupted into cheers and applause. 'I must confess,' the governor then modestly acknowledged, 'I am an NPR fan, too,' which brought him a second, even louder round of cheers and applause. A couple minutes later, a balding, nerdy, middle-aged man rose from his seat in the crowd and told the governor that he and his wife were also 'avid NPR fans--and avid Howard Dean fans.' More cheers and more applause.

"I listen to NPR myself, you understand. But really, now. When Howard Dean says he's just like you to people just like this, I have to believe that, if anything, he's limiting his popular appeal, not expanding it."