|Download For $1.99: - June 1963 - NBC News Special: Profumo/Keeler Scandal - Gordon Skene Sound Collection|
NBC – The British Government Crisis: The Profumo/Keeler Scandal – June 1963 – Gordon Skene Sound Collection –
The names John Profumo and Christine Keeler may not ring many bells today, but 57 years ago it was one of the biggest scandals to hit a government, and one which managed to dominate headlines for months.
The Profumo affair was a major political scandal in twentieth-century British politics. John Profumo, the Secretary of State for War in Harold Macmillan’s Conservative government, had an extramarital affair with 19-year-old model Christine Keeler beginning in 1961. Profumo denied the affair in a statement to the House of Commons, but weeks later a police investigation exposed the truth, proving that Profumo had lied to the House of Commons. The scandal severely damaged the credibility of Macmillan’s government, and Macmillan resigned as Prime Minister in October 1963, citing ill health. Ultimately, the fallout contributed to the Conservative government’s defeat by the Labour Party in the 1964 general election.
When the Profumo affair was first revealed, public interest was heightened by reports that Keeler may have been simultaneously involved with Captain Yevgeny Ivanov, a Soviet naval attaché, thereby creating a possible national security risk. Keeler knew both Profumo and Ivanov through her friendship with Stephen Ward, an osteopath and socialite who had taken her under his wing. The exposure of the affair generated rumours of other scandals and drew official attention to the activities of Ward, who was charged with a series of immorality offences. Perceiving himself as a scapegoat for the misdeeds of others, Ward took a fatal overdose during the final stages of his trial, which found him guilty of living off the immoral earnings of Keeler and her friend Mandy Rice-Davies.
An inquiry into the Profumo affair by a senior judge, Lord Denning, assisted by a senior civil servant, TA Critchley, concluded that there had been no breaches of security arising from the Ivanov connection, although Denning’s report was later described as superficial and unsatisfactory. Profumo subsequently worked as a volunteer at Toynbee Hall, an East London charitable trust. By 1975 he had been officially rehabilitated, although he did not return to public life. He died, honoured and respected, in 2006. By contrast, Keeler found it difficult to escape the negative image attached to her by press, law and parliament throughout the scandal. In various, sometimes contradictory accounts, she challenged Denning’s conclusions relating to security issues. Ward’s conviction has been described by analysts as an act of establishment revenge, rather than serving justice. In January 2014 his case was under review by the Criminal Cases Review Commission, with the possibility of a later reference to the Court of Appeal. Dramatisations of the Profumo affair have been shown on stage and screen.
Needless to say, the scandal got worldwide attention and this NBC/BBC co-production news special fills American audiences in on what was the biggest news story of 1963, until November 22nd rolled around.
Times have certainly changed. Behaviors, not so much.