You Don’t Know Them: On Sir Jimmy Savile, Donald Trump and The Power of Celebrity

Jimmy Savile
Written by Tom Ewing

An adoring public easily dismissed sexual assault allegations against beloved British TV host Sir Jimmy Savile. So did police. Everyone felt they knew him. But when Savile died in 2011, it all came out.

aNewDomain — How can a celebrity hide sexual abuse in plain sight?

Look no further than  Sir Jimmy Savile, a multi-millionaire English television personality and beloved Top of the Pops host.

During Savile’s lifetime, two police investigations looked into reports that Savile was a sexual predator who molested children, the earliest being more than 50 years before his death. And those who accused him, and there were many, were routinely vilified. Johnny Rotten of Sex Pistols fame even found himself banned from BBC Radio for saying in an interview that Savile was a pervert.

For his part, Savile assured everyone that all claims against him were false, while also bragging to interviewers that “he could get anything he wanted.”

But after his death in 2011, Savile was exposed as one of the worst sexual predators in the history of the United Kingdom.

Police eventually concluded that he had molested some 450 people, mostly children and many of them with special needs.

Now, I have absolutely no idea whether recent allegations that former reality TV star Donald Trump sexually assaulted women are true, and I take no position on his guilt or innocence. Such matters are best left to the courts. But as the Savile case makes clear, thinking you “know” a celebrity just because you have spent hours watching him on television is an all-too-common mistake.

The BBC has produced numerous documentaries about Savile, include this recent one:

The London Metropolitan Police created a special taskforce called Operation Yewtree in light of the Savile revelations to investigate British media personalities who had molested children. The operation has thus far led to 19 arrests and 6 convictions.

Americans are not likely to recognize many of the convicted celebrities, except for rocker Gary Glitter sentenced to 16 years in prison and artist and musician (“Tie Me Kangeroo Down, Sport“) Rolf Harris, sentenced to five years and nine months in prison. Queen Elizabeth once commissioned Harris to paint her official portrait.

The Report for Operation Yewtree – “Giving Victims a Voice” – is provided in full below.

Society must be careful, very careful, about who it puts into positions of power. A serial womanizer is bad enough; a sexual predator is worse.

To be clear, I have absolutely no idea what Donald Trump has ever done. He seems like a perfect asshole, but that’s not a crime.

Johnny Rotten of the Sex Pistols tells Piers Morgan what “everyone” knew about Jimmy Savile in the 1970s:

Ricky Gervais interviewing Jimmy Savile:

Jimmy Savile with Mohammed Ali:

Jimmy Savile from Top of the Pops, one of his signature shows:

Jimmy Savile hosting Oliva Newton-John for the 1974 Eurovision song contest:

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For aNewDomain, I’m Tom Ewing.


Cover: Jimmy Savile via Wikimedia Commons, All Rights Reserved.