Martin Bashir says he is “deeply sorry” following a bombshell report that he used “deceitful behavior” to secure a 1995 BBC interview with Princess Diana. However, he denies that the interview was responsible for any harm towards the late royal.
“I never wanted to harm Diana in any way and I don’t believe we did,” the journalist 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.”
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The report concluded that Bashir “commissioned fake bank statements” that allowed him to get access to Diana by deceiving her brother, Charles Spencer, to arrange a meeting in which Diana was later persuaded to take part in the 1995 interview.
“This behaviour was in serious breach of the 1993 edition of the BBC’s Producer Guidelines on straight dealing,” former High Court Judge Lord Dyson said.
Bashir has admitted to showing Spencer the forged documents, for which he says he is “deeply sorry,” but claims had “no bearing” on Diana or the interview.
Diana famously said during the interview that there were “three of us in this marriage, so it was a bit crowded.” Following the revelations, Queen Elizabeth II issued a statement recommending Diana and Prince Charles seek a divorce. The marriage officially ended on August 28, 1996. On Aug. 31, 1997, Diana died in a car accident in Paris while being chased by the paparazzi.
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Diana’s sons, Princes William and Harry, have both suggested Bashir’s interview directly contributed to the Princess of Wales’ untimely death.
Prince William said in a video statement that Bashir made “lurid and false claims about the Royal Family which played on [Diana’s] fears and fueled paranoia.”
“The interview was a major contribution to making my parents’ relationship worse and has since hurt countless others,” Prince William added. “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.”
Prince Harry echoed his brother’s comments in a separate statement, noting that the “ripple effect of a culture of exploitation and unethical practices ultimately took her life.”
“Our mother lost her life because of this, and nothing has changed,” Harry added. “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.”
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While Bashir told the Times he “can’t imagine what their family must feel each day,” he rejected the Duke of Cambridge’s claim that the way the interview was obtained fueled Diana’s isolation and paranoia.
“Even in the early 1990s, there were stories and secretly recorded phone calls,” Bashir said. “I wasn’t the source of any of that.”
Spencer has gone even further than William, alleging Bashir’s comments to his sister led to her giving up her royal security detail in addition to her death.
“I don’t feel I can be held responsible for many of the other things that were going on in her life, and the complex issues surrounding those decisions,” Bashir argues. “I can understand the motivation [of Earl Spencer’s comments] but to channel the tragedy, the difficult relationship between the royal family and the media purely on to my shoulders feels a little unreasonable…The suggestion I am singularly responsible I think is unreasonable and unfair.”
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Bashir added he was a young man when the interview took place, and hopes that since he rejoined the BBC in 2016, he has “demonstrated higher levels of probity and integrity.”
When asked if he would be able to forgive himself, Bashir said, “that’s a really difficult question because it was a serious error.”
“I hope that people will allow me the opportunity to show that I am properly repentant of what happened,” he added.
Following the release of Dyson’s report, Spencer thanked journalist Andy Webb for his “tireless professionalism in bringing the Bashir-Panorama-BBC scandal to light.”
“If he hadn’t have pursued this story for well over a decade, and shared his findings with me last October, today’s findings wouldn’t have surfaced.”
Bashir has since stepped down from his role as the BBC’s editor of religion and issued a statement apologizing for his conduct. BBC’s director of news and current affairs at the time, Tony Hall, has also stepped aside following the investigation.