Martin Bashir: 'Dishonest' journalist who interviewed princess Diana

Agence France-Presse
Martin Bashir: 'Dishonest' journalist who interviewed princess Diana
First broadcast in November 1995, the Princess Diana interview became the subject of a BBC investigation after her brother Charles Spencer and others accused Martin Bashir (right) of using questionable methods to secure the interview.
BBC / Panorama

The scoop, which was watched by 22.8 million people in the UK — a record for a factual programme — led to even more sensational celebrity exposes, and an international career.

First broadcast in November 1995, the Diana interview became the subject of a BBC investigation after her brother Charles Spencer and others accused Bashir of using questionable methods to secure the interview.

Michael Jackson's former manager Dieter Wiesner also blamed Bashir's 2003 documentary on the troubled US singer for his eventual demise six years later.

"It killed him," said Wiesner. "He took a long time to die, but it started that night. Previously the drugs were a crutch but after that they became a necessity."

Other high-profile interviewees include the young British nanny Louise Woodward, who was convicted in the United States of involuntary manslaughter after a baby died in her care.

Bashir also spoke on camera to five suspects accused of murdering the black teenager Stephen Lawrence in a notorious racially motivated attack in south London in 1993.

Fake documents

Controversy has never been far away from Bashir, who went on to work in the United States for the ABC, NBC and MSNBC television news networks.

In October 2020, Spencer called for an enquiry into how Bashir secured the Diana interview, a watershed moment in British life that lifted the lid on royal secrets.

He demanded an apology from the BBC, saying that Bashir showed him fake bank statements that suggested security services were paying two senior courtiers to spy on his sister.

"If it were not for me seeing these statements I would not have introduced Bashir to my sister," Spencer wrote, accusing the broadcaster of "sheer dishonesty".

In November 2020, the BBC announced an investigation into the claims, led by former Supreme Court judge John Dyson, which has found that the broadcaster "fell short of the high standards of integrity and transparency which are its trademark".

Allegations of wrongdoing had emerged shortly after the interview was broadcast, but a BBC internal investigation in 1996 had cleared Bashir.

The BBC Panorama interview with Diana, who died in a Paris car crash in 1997, is seen by some as one of the 20th century's greatest and most revealing.

In it, Diana said "there were three people" in her marriage — a reference to Charles' relationship with Camilla Parker Bowles — and admitted having an affair herself.

The couple, who had two sons, princes William and Harry, separated in 1992 and formally divorced in 1996. Charles married Camilla in a low-key civil ceremony in 2005.

US controversy

Illusionist Uri Geller was one of those who watched the Diana interview and he suggested interviews with Bashir could improve the image of his friend, Michael Jackson.

At the time, the self-styled "King of Pop" was facing a swirl of rumours about child abuse allegations, and questions about the eccentric parenting of his young children.

The 2003 ITV documentary "Living With Michael Jackson" painted a picture of a troubled loner. It was  seen by 14 million people in the UK and 38 million in the United States.

Jackson complained to the UK television regulators, accusing Bashir of giving a distorted picture of his behaviour and conduct as a father.

Bashir was also suspended from ABC's flagship current affairs show "Nightline" after making "crude and sexist" comments during an after-dinner speech.

He worked for MSNBC but resigned in 2013 for comments about Republican politician Sarah Palin's comparison of the US federal debt to slavery.

He had described Palin, the running mate of John McCain during his failed 2008 presidential election campaign, as a "world-class idiot".

Bashir, who was born to Pakistani parents in London in 1963, later returned to the BBC, and served as its religious affairs editor from January 2017.

In October 2020, the broadcaster said he was "seriously unwell" with complications from the coronavirus.

The BBC said last week that he had stepped down from his editor role due to ongoing health issues after quadruple heart bypass surgery last year.







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