John Cleese Tweets His Rage Over John Whittingdale Escort Story 'Cover Up'

He think it's the biggest scandal in 50 years.

The press is helping to cover up the biggest political scandal in 50 years.

Well, that's certainly what John Cleese seems to think.

The actor and funnyman has been worked into a frothing sea of indignation over the perceived failure of the press to cover Culture Secretary John Whittingdale's relationship with an escort.

<strong>John Cleese: 'odd wall of silence'</strong>
John Cleese: 'odd wall of silence'
Andrew Matthews/PA Archive

Four national newspapers had details of the story but decided not to cover it, saying it was not in the public interest.

Whittingdale, who is now in charge of press regulation, was not a minister at the time of the relationship, and was not aware the woman was a sex worker.

Cleese appears adamant this is clear sign of a cover-up

Whittingdale told BBC's Newsnight: "Between August 2013 and February 2014, I had a relationship with someone who I first met through

"She was a similar age and lived close to me. At no time did she give me any indication of her real occupation and I only discovered this when I was made aware that someone was trying to sell a story about me to tabloid newspapers. As soon as I discovered, I ended the relationship.

"This is an old story which was a bit embarrassing at the time. The events occurred long before I took up my present position and it has never had any influence on the decisions I have made as culture secretary."

<strong>John Wittingdale: Once dated an escort</strong>
John Wittingdale: Once dated an escort
Peter Byrne/PA Wire

In Cathcart's piece, the Hacked Off founder responds to the editor of Press Gazette who argued the story had been spiked on ethical and practical grounds.

He writes: "This idea is not credible for two main reasons. First, there were public interest grounds for publication, meaning not only that there was no legal barrier but also that, ethically, journalists would normally have felt an obligation to bring it to the attention of the public.

"And second, a refusal to publish a story about a government minister having had a relationship with a dominatrix is, as we all know, wholly out of character for several of our national papers (while the others would normally follow up such a story with relish)."

Cleese is no fan of the press and is a vocal campaigner for press regulation and privacy issues, an irony lot lost on some.

But former tabloid editors are incensed at the BBC for covering the affair, claiming 'a single man dating single woman' is not a story.

Neil Wallis, who was the deputy editor of the News of the World and edited The People, brought claims of another potential conspiracy.

In an interview with the Today programme, he accused the BBC of "campaigning against" newspapers for invading privacy, but then hypocritically attacking them for failing to cover the details of Whittingdale’s sex life, in an "Alice Through The Looking Glass" scenario.

Wallis said the BBC was "getting its own back" on newspapers by reporting the unwillingness to publish the story, saying that there was no reason to cover it because “on the bottom line, what we have here is single man dated single woman before he was a minister.”

Public opinion appears to be divided over whether or not it is in fact a story.

Robinson closed the Today interview by saying: "You’ve made that point many, many times and I’ve resisted being a spokesman for the BBC because I ask questions, I don’t take part in conspiracies, or indeed, speak for the BBC."

He added that the story had been covered by the BBC and others – after first appearing in Private Eye – because it was “interesting… as indeed, it has proved to be.”


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