Daltrey decries ''witch hunt'' against Townshend. He dismisses as politically motivated the kid-porn probe that targeted his Who bandmate

By Gary Susman
Updated August 01, 2003 at 04:00 AM EDT
Credit: Roger Daltrey: Chris Delmas/ZUMA Press/NewsCom

”It was the beginning of a witch-hunt and nobody’s safe,” said Roger Daltrey, defending Who bandmate Pete Townshend. In his first substantial interview since the kid-porn probe against the guitarist was dropped two months ago, Daltrey told London’s Daily Telegraph on Monday that Townshend’s much-publicized arrest was politically motivated.”There was a huge breach of his civil liberties, and I don’t think we should sit back and watch that kind of thing happen without fighting it,” Daltrey said. ”If this was the Sixties, more people would see this witch-hunt for what it is and start a protest. It’s not just about Pete. It’s about having some control over our lives and not letting the police do whatever they want.”

Townshend was arrested last winter, and his computers confiscated, after he admitted to using a credit card to access a website containing child pornography, saying he did so only to research an upcoming memoir that recounts abuse he says he remembers from his childhood. He was never charged with a crime, and he was ultimately cleared of child-porn charges in May but still given a formal police caution and forced to register as a sex offender. ”What are we becoming? The f—ing Taliban?” Daltrey said. ”Pete’s an artist and may have been naive, but he did nothing wrong and told the truth from the start. But he was treated as though he was guilty of the worst crimes and crucified without a trial by people with no accountability. It’s a f—ing disgrace. Everything they did to him was appalling.”

Comparing Townshend to John Lennon, Daltrey said, ”Just like John, he’s a creative artist who wears his heart on his sleeve and draws his own boundaries. The Establishment didn’t like John for doing that, and now they want to get Pete.”

Daltrey, 59, and Townshend, 58, the sole surviving members of the Who since bassist John Entwistle died last year on the eve of the band’s reunion tour, plan to record a new Who album together this winter, then tour. ”We’re not going to give up now. As long as Pete’s there on guitar, and I’m there to sing the lead, you’re going to have the Who,” Daltrey said. ”The sound is still there. And in my opinion, Pete’s getting better as the years go by. Nothing is going to stop us, not the government or the press or anybody. We’re going to keep playing until we drop dead.”