Glasgow, April 19, 2000
Jewish leaders criticise BBC over Irving
JEWISH leaders yesterday criticised the BBC for continuing to give a voice to shamed historian David Irving after he was branded a "racist and anti-Semitic" by a High Court judge.
The 62-year-old author of Hitler's War faces financial ruin after losing his libel action against American academic Professor Deborah Lipstadt and Penguin Books last week.
But since the judgment, which saw him accused of racism and being a Holocaust denier, he has appeared on BBC2's Newsnight and Radio 4's Today programme to defend himself.
Now the Board of Deputies of British Jews has written to BBC director of news Tony Hall complaining about the corporation's integrity in giving him a platform.
In a statement issued yesterday, Mr Neville Nagler, the board's director-general, said: "it is surprising that the BBC regards it appropriate to offer a platform for someone whom the High Court has found to be an anti-Semite and a racist.
"We are concerned about the policy of the BBC in having such people on its programmes. The BBC sets the standard for journalistic integrity in this country, and we are concerned to know what standards it will be setting in the aftermath of the Irving case.
"We feel sure the BBC will wish to respond promptly to this most serious complaint, and look forward to hearing what they have to say."
Irving sued Prof Lipstadt over her 1994 book, Denying the Holocaust: The Growing Assault on Truth and Memory, which he said generated waves of hatred against him.
He said he was not a Holocaust denier, although he did question the scale of the Nazi destruction of the Jewish population and their use of gas chambers.
However, Irving lost his case after the judge accepted Prof Lipstadt and Penguin's plea of justification.
Interviewed on the Today programme after his defeat, the historian was in defiant mood, vowing to "carry on ploughing my straight furrow across the country".
A BBC spokesman said: "The Irving case was a legal landmark raising significant issues about free speech, Holocaust denial, and British libel law.
"Along with the rest of the British media, we sought to examine the significance of the case, but at no time offered David Irving a platform for his views. Instead, we sought to hold those views up to rigorous scrutiny in order to reveal them for what they are.
"We recognise the sensitivity of the case, and throughout our reporting sought to reflect the judge's comments about David Irving's views.
"Far from giving him a platform, we challenged him on his opinions and asked the kinds of questions many viewers and listeners wanted to see put to him."
April 19, 2000
Website fact: The stamina of the defence team was aided by a six million dollar fund provided by Stephen Spielberg, Edgar J Bronfman, and the American Jewish Committee, which enabled them to pay 21 lawyers and "experts"; the experts like Evans, Longerich were paid up to £109,000 each to testify as they did (while the defence's star legal team was paid considerably more). Nobody was paying for Mr Irving, who has been fighting this battle for three whole years. Nobody was paying for Mr Irving, who has been fighting this battle for three whole years. Nor did he pay his defence witnesses one cent or sous: they testified from conviction, not for reward. [Help!]