Russell Brand quits show after prank

BBC investigating lewd calls from Brand, Jonathan Ross

LONDON -- Following a turbulent day in which he was suspended from his weekly radio show by the BBC's director general, comedian Russell Brand has severed his links with the pubcaster, resigning from his show with immediate effect.

Offering "nothing but love and contrition," the host of last month's MTV Video Music Awards said he took "complete responsibility" for the obscene calls left on the phone of "Fawlty Towers" actor Andrew Sachs and said that he hoped the BBC will endure "less forensic wrath" now that he has resigned.

"I got a bit caught up in the moment and forgot that at the core of the rude comments and silly songs were the real feelings of a beloved and brilliant comic actor and a very sweet and big-hearted young woman," Brand said, ending his statement with the salutation "Hare Krishna."

The announcement came late in a day dominated by the row over the BBC's decision to broadcast a series of obscene phone calls in which both Brand and chat show host Jonathan Ross bragged about Brand's sexual relationship with Sachs' granddaughter.

The row, which has generated more than 18,000 viewer complaints, came after 36 hours of near-unprecedented pressure on the BBC to act.

After more than a day of virtual silence in which BBC bosses refused all interview requests, director general Mark Thompson issued an apology to Sachs and his family Wednesday morning.

He also announced that Ross and Brand were to be suspended, pending the results of an investigation into how the calls ended up on air.

Thompson is cutting short his holiday to return to London to present the BBC's inquiry into the matter to its oversight committee, the BBC Trust, on Thursday morning.

In a statement, Thompson said he offered a "personal and unreserved apology to Andrew Sachs, his family and to license fee payers for the completely unacceptable broadcast on BBC Radio 2."

"This is not a marginal case. It is clear from the views expressed by the public that this broadcast has caused severe offence and I share that view," Thompson added.

After Brand's resignation, Ross made his first public statement on the matter, having apologized personally to Sachs earlier this week.

Separately, Georgina Baillie, Sachs' granddaughter, told the Sun newspaper that the two presenters who had boasted about her sexual relationship with Brand to her grandfather should lose their jobs.

"My grandfather is really upset and says he wants the whole situation to end. It has been awful for him. I will be speaking to him to ask whether we should complain to police and we'll be making a decision as a family," she told the newspaper.

"We're very close, and I can't tell you how much it hurts to know they were so unkind to such a sweet person. They should at least pay for what they've done with their jobs," she added.

Prime Minister Gordon Brown added his weight to the growing condemnation of the BBC's decision to broadcast the prank calls.

Speaking to journalists after meeting with French president Nicolas Sarkozy in Paris, Brown described the comments as "clearly inappropriate and unacceptable behavior" but said it was for the BBC and media regulator Ofcom to impose sanctions.

His comments follow criticism from opposition leader David Cameron and Culture Secretary Andy Burnham as well as viewer and listener groups.
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