Tim Bell, the British ad and PR magnate, released a statement today defending his Bell Pottinger PR unit against a series of negative articles about its operations for domestic and foreign clients while criticizing the two news organizations at the heart of the "manufactured furore."
The articles, produced by The Independent and the Bureau of Investigative Journalism, came about after staffers from those entities posed as representatives of Uzbekistan in search of PR support.
Bell, who heads BP parent Chime Communications, said the news organization's tactics were "underhand, unethical and improper, and that their reporting of the matter has been partial, not even-handed and deliberately slanted."
He said, because of that belief, he will not respond to any other allegations from the paper, which he said is emailing, calling and writing to BP clients.
"I regret that this fuss has occurred, and I am upset at the damage done to our reputation and the well-being of members of our company," he said, adding the firm does not take the allegations "lightly" and has instituted an internal review.
Bell said BP staffers were clear in the faux Uzbek meetings that they needed assurance the government was committed to positive reform before moving forward. "We said it would be counter-productive to communicate if substantial change was not underway," he said. "We said such a campaign would not work."
Regarding allegations that BP staffers manipulated Wikipedia entries, Bell said he spoke to Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales and "accepted his offer to come in and advise our people on how to work with the Wikipedia community."