The child sex-abuse scandal surrounding the late BBC presenter Jimmy Savile continues to broaden.
A popular comedian has been released on bail after being questioned by British police in connection with the scandal. Freddie Starr, 69, was arrested Thursday for allegedly groping a 14-year-old girl in 1974 while he was in a BBC dressing room with Savile. He has denied the allegations.
Starr’s accuser, Karin Ward, now 52, came forward in the documentary “Exposure: The Other Side of Jimmy Savile,” which aired in October on the BBC’s rival network, ITV. In it, she and nine other women claim they were abused by Savile when they were schoolgirls. In one instance, Ward claimed Savile asked her to perform oral sex on him in his limousine in exchange for being on his TV show.
“It’s not easy to come out and admit to something that you’re actually bitterly ashamed of,” Ward told the Telegraph last month. “I am ashamed of that. It’s disgusting.”
Starr was the second celebrity to be arrested this week in connection with the burgeoning scandal. On Sunday, the 1970s-era glam rocker Gary Glitter was arrested at his home and questioned as part of the investigation. In the documentary, Ward claimed she saw Glitter having sex with one of her classmates in a BBC dressing room. The girls were appearing on the BBC variety show “Clunk, Click,” which Savile hosted. Glitter has also been released on bail.
The new arrests lend weight to claims made by many of Savile’s alleged victims, who have maintained that the beloved TV personality was part of an organized “pedophile ring” -- one that included other BBC staffers who shared his sexual interest in minors, as reported by the Evening Standard. Authorities believe abuse may have taken place over four decades and involved 200 possible victims.
Savile died last year at the age of 84.
The scandal has shaken the public’s confidence in the government-funded BBC as well as its director general, George Entwistle, and his predecessor, Mark Thompson, who is set to become the new CEO of the New York Times Co. (NYSE: NYT) on Nov. 12. The Guardian reported that Entwistle is planning a Monday meeting with the National Association for People Abused in Childhood in the hopes of forging a partnership with the organization. The group said it has dealt with more than 6,000 calls and emails from abuse victims since the Savile scandal broke.
Thompson had denied any knowledge of the scandal. In light of his connection with the BBC, however, questions about his ability to lead the struggling Times Co. have begun to surface. “It’s worth considering now whether he is the right person for the job, given this turn of events,” the New York Times’ public editor, Margaret Sullivan, wrote in a blog post.
Since the Savile scandal broke last month, the British media have become practically consumed with it, reporting almost nonstop as each new allegation surfaces and pressure on BBC executives continues to mount. Speaking on a BBC news program on Oct. 22, John Simpson, the broadcaster’s longtime foreign correspondent, called the scandal “the worst crisis that I can remember in my nearly 50 years at the BBC” as shown in a video hosted by the Guardian.