LONDON – Thousands of British Broadcasting Corp. (search) employees took out a full-page newspaper ad Saturday voicing support for the chief executive who resigned after a judge harshly criticized a BBC report alleging the government exaggerated evidence on Iraqi weapons.
The Daily Telegraph ad backing former BBC director general Greg Dyke (search) came a day after the resignation of Andrew Gilligan (search), the correspondent who broadcast the radio piece that set off a bitter feud between the network and the government. Gilligan's was the third resignation prompted by the judicial report.
His May 29 piece quoted an anonymous official as saying the government had "sexed up" intelligence in a September 2002 dossier summing up evidence on Iraqi weapons for the public.
Government scientist David Kelly killed himself days after being identified as the source of the report, and Lord Hutton, a senior appeals judge, was appointed to investigate the death.
On Wednesday, Hutton exonerated the government but excoriated the BBC, calling Gilligan's report "unfounded," the broadcaster's editorial procedures "defective" and the board of governors' oversight inadequate.
In a statement, Gilligan apologized for mistakes in his story but slammed Hutton's verdict, which many critics have called one-sided.
"My departure is at my own initiative," the reporter said. "But the BBC collectively has been the victim of a grave injustice.
"I love the BBC and I am resigning because I want to protect it. I accept my part in the crisis which has befallen the organization. But a greater part has been played by the unbalanced judgments of Lord Hutton."
Dyke and BBC chairman Gavyn Davies, the broadcaster's two top officials, quit and the BBC apologized to the government after the report was issued.
Staff have expressed strong support for Dyke, and hundreds rallied outside BBC offices around the country when he announced his resignation.
More than four thousand BBC workers' names were listed in tiny print in a full-page Daily Telegraph ad backing Dyke Saturday, and the ad said more names would have been listed if there was more space.
"Greg Dyke stood for brave, independent and rigorous BBC journalism that was fearless in its search for truth," the ad said. "We are dismayed by Greg's departure but we are determined to maintain his achievements and his vision for an independent organization that serves the public above all else."
BBC employees, anchors, reporters and contributors paid for the ad personally, it said.
Some journalists have warned Hutton's conclusions could impede tough investigative reporting.
Dyke said he and other BBC officials had been "absolutely shocked" by Hutton's report, which he argued had "given the benefit of doubt to every government witness and not to any at the BBC."
Dyke said it was important journalists be able to use anonymous inside sources.
"Lord Hutton does seem to suggest that is not enough for a broadcaster or a newspaper ... to simply report what a whistleblower or someone like Dr. Kelly says because they are an authoritative source. You have to demonstrate that it's true," he told BBC radio. "That would change the law in this country."
Hutton said the allegations quoted in the report were "very grave" and faulted BBC editors for failing to review what Gilligan was going to say before he went on the air with the first, and strongest, version of his story.
The reporter broadcast that version just after 6 a.m. without a script. Crucially, he said that officials insisted on including in the dossier a claim — that Iraq could deploy some chemical and biological weapons on 45 minutes' notice — that the government "probably knew ... was wrong."
"I attributed this to David Kelly; it was in fact an inference of mine," Gilligan said in his resignation statement.
The BBC later faulted Gilligan for "loose use of language."
On Friday, the journalist stood behind most of his story.
"The government did sex up the dossier, transforming possibilities and probabilities into certainties, removing vital caveats; the 45-minute claim was the `classic example' of this; and many in the intelligence services, including the leading expert in WMD, were unhappy about it," he said.
Blair's 10 Downing St. had no comment on the resignation or Gilligan's new comments.