“Paedo Tories Outed on Live TV” was how the Daily Star newspaper reported the ambush of David Cameron by Phillip Schofield on ITV’s This Morning programme last Thursday. The presenter thrust into the Prime Minister’s lap a list of the names of alleged paedophiles which had been plucked from the internet before going on air.
With all the attention focussed on the BBC’s self-flagellation over the defaming of Lord McAlpine, who is of course totally innocent of all accusations, the rest of the media seems to be getting a free pass. Exposing a list of names of alleged Tory paedophiles on live television is about as defamatory as it gets. The fact that it was thrust under the nose of the Prime Minister makes it, arguably, one of the worst cases of irresponsible journalism in the history of broadcasting.
Yet, no heads appear to be rolling in ITV. No inquiries have been set up to investigate how this could have happened. Schofield and co are not being hauled before the media and culture select committee. The press is having a great time attacking the BBC, but has allowed an equally serious breach of journalistic standards to go largely unremarked.
It was a disgraceful stunt and Cameron handled it rather well by not losing his temper and by warning that there was a risk of a witch-hunt of gay politicians. It says a lot about Cameron as a politician that he didn’t explode. But because of his moderate response, this appalling incident got lost in the furore over Newsnight’s implosion
But the damage had already done, as made clear by the Daily Star headline. A raft of prominent public figures who are probably innocent are now ineluctably connected with child abuse because their names are all over the internet. Anyone with a search engine can find them.
This story is far from over.