Following last week's revelation that Martin Bashir used deceptive tactics to secure a BBC interview with Princess Diana in 1995, the shamed journalist says he is “deeply sorry,” but maintains he did not cause the princess any harm.
“I never wanted to harm Diana in any way and I don’t believe we did,” Bashir told the Sunday Times. “Everything we did in terms of the interview was as she wanted, from when she wanted to alert the palace, to when it was broadcast, to its contents … My family and I loved her.”
Last week, the BBC published a report by former High Court judge Lord Jordan Dyson, sharing the results of an independent investigation into the circumstances of the interview with Diana.
25 years since “the most famous and controversial television interview in royal history,” the BBC faced “a crisis over allegations that Martin Bashir, the interviewer who persuaded Princess Diana to give the bombshell interview in 1995, lied and committed subterfuge in order to get the princess to tell her side of the story—and that the BBC knew about it,” wrote Vanity Fair.
A notable comment from the interview was Diana referencing Prince Charles’ ongoing affair with Camila Parker Bowles, saying, “There were three of us in this marriage, so it was a bit crowded.” Prince Charles and Diana officially ended their marriage on August 28, 1996, after the queen encouraged them to divorce. Diana died in a car accident on August 31, 1997.
Lord Dyson was appointed to lead the investigation on the interview by the BBC board on November 18, 2020.
In the “executive summary” of the report, it states, “The interview with HRH Diana, Princess of Wales that was aired on 20 November 1995 was a sensational triumph for the BBC and Martin Bashir, both nationally and internationally. Whatever reservations she may have had about it later, Princess Diana was pleased with the interview at the time. By early to mid-August 1995 at the latest, she was keen on the idea of a television interview. She would probably have agreed to be interviewed by any experienced and reputable reporter in whom she had confidence even without the intervention of Mr. Bashir.”
Lord Dyson explained that he describes “in considerable detail the way in which Mr. Bashir commissioned fake bank statements,” part of Bashir’s strategy to “deceive and induce” Earl Spencer to “arrange a meeting with Princess Diana.”
“By gaining access to Princess Diana in this way, Mr. Bashir was able to persuade her to agree to give the 3 interviews. This behavior was in serious breach of the 1993 edition of the BBC’s Producer Guidelines on straight dealing,” the report stated.
Princess Diana’s sons, Prince William and Prince Harry, have both spoken out about the findings of the BBC report.
I would like to thank Lord Dyson and his team for their report. It is welcome that the BBC accepts Lord Dyson’s findings in full, which are extremely concerning. That BBC employees lied and used fake documents to obtain the interview with my mother, made lurid and false claims about the royal family, which played on her fears and fueled paranoia, displayed woeful incompetence when investigating complaints and concerns about the program and were evasive in their reporting to the media and covered up what they knew from their internal investigation.
It is my view that the deceitful way that the interview was obtained substantially influenced what my mother said. The interview was a major contribution to making my parent’s relationship worse and has since hurt countless others. It brings indescribable sadness to know that the BBC’s failures contributed significantly to her fear, paranoia, and isolation that I remember from those final years with her. But what saddens me most is that if the BBC had properly investigated the complaints and concerns first raised in 1995, my mother would have known that she’d been deceived.
She was failed not just by a rogue reporter, but by leaders of the BBC who looked the other way rather than ask any tough questions. It is my firm view that this Panorama program holds no legitimacy and should never be aired again. It effectively established the false narrative which over a quarter of a century has been commercialized by the BBC and others. This settled narrative now needs to be addressed by the BBC and anyone who has written or intends to write about these events. In an era of fake news, public service broadcasting and a free press, have never been more important. These failings, identified by investigative journalists, not only let my mother down and my family down, they let the public down, too.
Prince Harry stated:
Our mother was an incredible woman who dedicated her life to service. She was resilient, brave, and unquestionably honest. The ripple effect of a culture of exploitation and unethical practices ultimately took her life. To those who have taken some form of accountability, thank you for owning it. That is the first step towards justice and truth. … Our mother lost her life because of this, and nothing has changed. By protecting her legacy, we protect everyone, and uphold the dignity with which she lived her life. Let’s remember who she was and what she stood for.