War of words over Huw Edwards amid new claims that BBC star sent inappropriate messages


he Huw Edwards storm grew on Thursday as the star presenter continued to receive hospital treatment and the BBC faced fresh questions about its approach after revealing new claims about his conduct.

Amid a deepening war of words, the public continued to digest the news that the 61-year-old newsreader was the man at the centre of the explicit photos scandal that has dominated front pages for days.

Edwards, who has anchored the BBC’s coverage of major state occasions as well as being its most high-profile and well-paid news presenter, was named on Wednesday by his wife Vicky Flind as the previously unidentified star accused of paying for explicit photos to be sent to him by a young person after making contact on a dating app.

She said that Edwards — who has also faced claims of sending “creepy” messages to another young person and breaking Covid lockdown rules to meet another — was in hospital receiving treatment for “serious mental health issues” which had “greatly worsened” since the allegations about his behaviour emerged. Neither Edwards nor his wife have commented yet on the most recent allegations.

Her statement came moments after the Metropolitan Police announced that there was “no information to indicate that a criminal offence” had been committed by the presenter.

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But within hours the BBC — which was already under fire for not responding to the initial allegations swiftly enough and failing to exercise its duty of care to Edwards — risked deepening the controversy about its handling of the affair by broadcasting new claims that he had sent inappropriate messages to colleagues.

The BBC report cited two of the corporation’s staff and one former employee, with one claiming that Edwards had sent late messages with kisses that they believed were “an abuse of power” and another saying they had received messages about their appearance which had given them a “cold shudder”.

The third person quoted claimed to have received “inappropriate” messages which the BBC said appeared “to be flirtatious”.

The decision to press ahead with the disclosures prompted an immediate backlash, with the BBC’s former North America editor and political correspondent Jon Sopel accusing the corporation of “terrible” behaviour.

“Dear BBCRadio4 BBCNews, Well done on handling the breaking news about thehuwedwards and the fact that he’s now being treated in hospital — but to then straight off the back of that into a report on him facing fresh allegations of misconduct? That was just terrible,” he tweeted. Sopel, who added that he wished Edwards well while describing the controversy as an “awful and shocking episode”, also rebuked radio host Jeremy Vine for his earlier call for Edwards to identify himself to protect other presenters from unjustified vitriol.

Times journalist Andrew Billen, who met Edwards for lunch last Thursday, said the broadcaster considered himself “an outsider at the BBC” because of his Welsh roots and lack of an Oxford education. He told Times Radio that Edwards had a reputation for being “indiscreet” and “might have a capacity for recklessness”.

Billen said: “He is a performer”, adding: “Of course he is presenting a face and as a professional, consummate presenter, he knows how to perform”.

Sir Craig Oliver, a former BBC journalist who worked with Edwards on News at Ten before becoming the Downing Street head of communications, said the way the story had been covered should make journalists think about how they work.

“I think one of the things that has really come out of this is should news just slow down and allow the processes to take place, allow the facts to emerge and then report the story?” he said.

There were also questions about the role of The Sun, which published the initial allegations. Its former editor, David Yelland, wrote on Twitter: “I wish thehuwedwards well. The Sun inflicted terror on Huw despite no evidence of any criminal offence. This is no longer a BBC crisis, it is a crisis for the paper. Huw’s privacy must now be respected.”

But Adam Boulton, a former political editor at Sky News, defended the paper, saying that its reporting “looks like it is in the legitimate public interest”.

“Those on television who hold others to account for their behaviour have to be prepared to be held to account,” he told Sky’s Sophy Ridge. “A lot of careers ended a long way short of criminality because it was felt that they were bringing the organisation, which they represented, into disrepute.”

The Sun broke the story about an unnamed presenter, claiming that he had received explicit photos after paying money to a young person, which the person had used to fuel a drug habit. The paper insisted that despite the police conclusion that no crime was committed it had published allegations that were “very serious” and that it remained for the BBC to properly investigate.

Further allegations emerged in the wake of The Sun’s first story including claims that Edwards sent “creepy” messages and, according to the BBC, directed abusive expletives at another person after being threatened with exposure online.

The BBC’s director-general, Tim Davie, has promised to review how complaints about its staff are handled and to carry out an internal investigation into Edwards’s conduct. He told staff on Wednesday that the corporation’s “immediate concern is our duty of care to all involved”.

Mr Davie, acting chairwoman Dame Elan Closs Stephens and policy director Clare Sumner will appear before the Lords Communications Committee on Tuesday to discuss the corporation’s leadership following the furore.

The peers will raise a range of issues, including “in light of recent events, what concerns have been raised about the adequacy of the BBC’s governance arrangements and how it is addressing these”.

* The original version of this article, which was printed in Thursday’s Evening Standard, erroneously described Sky News as part of the same media group as The Sun. Sky News is part of Sky Group which has been owned by the Comcast Group since 2018 and no longer has any connection to Rupert Murdoch’s media empire. We are happy to correct this error.


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