Reporter who 'sexed up' story quits BBC

Andrew Gilligan, the reporter whose story on the Blair government's Iraq files led to a suicide and a public inquiry, has quit the BBC.

Andrew Gilligan resigned from the BBC on Friday. He's the reporter at the centre of a journalism storm that brought the venerable broadcaster into disrepute in the David Kelly affair.

Gilligan left his job two days after the report of the Hutton inquiry cleared the British government of wrongdoing in events leading up to the arms expert's death last summer.

Instead, Lord Hutton criticized the BBC's news-gathering operation for a May 2003 radio story that accused Prime Minister Tony Blair's administration of "sexing up" the intelligence file that made the case for Britain to join the U.S.-led war against Iraq.

Kelly killed himself after being identified as the main source for the story.

In a lengthy statement to the media on Friday, Gilligan admitted his report on the Today program contained errors and he apologized for them.

But he went on to say that "the BBC collectively has been the victim of a grave injustice" at the hands of Lord Hutton.

"I love the BBC and I am resigning because I want to protect it," Gilligan said. "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."

Gilligan also stood by his story's conclusion that the Blair government had "sexed up" its Iraq dossier by incorrectly claiming that dictator Saddam Hussein possessed weapons of mass destruction that could be deployed with 45 minutes' notice.

The BBC had already lost two of its top managers in the crisis. Chairman of the board Gavyn Davies resigned the same day the Hutton report was released, followed the next day by editor-in-chief and director general Greg Dyke.

Late Friday, the BBC press office issued a statement saying: "We can confirm that Andrew Gilligan has resigned. We recognise this has been a very difficult time for him."

Blair's office said it had "nothing to say" about Gilligan's departure.