Martin Bashir BBC interview: I never wanted to harm Diana with Panorama and I don’t believe we did
The journalist’s reputation is in tatters following Lord Dyson’s report that he used “deceitful behaviour” to land his world exclusive 1995 interview.
Speaking to the Sunday Times, Bashir maintained Diana was never unhappy about the content of the interview and said they continued to be friends after the broadcast, with the princess even visiting his wife Deborah at St George’s hospital in Tooting, south London, on the day Deborah gave birth to the couple’s third child, Eliza.
He told the newspaper: “I never wanted to harm Diana in any way and I don’t believe we did.
“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.”
He said he is “deeply sorry” to the Dukes of Cambridge and Sussex, but disputes William’s charge that he fuelled her isolation and paranoia.
He said: “Even in the early 1990s, there were stories and secretly recorded phone calls. I wasn’t the source of any of that.”
Diana’s brother, Earl Spencer, has said he “draws a line” between the interview and his sister’s death, claiming Bashir’s actions led her to give up her royal security detail.
Bashir, who left the BBC last week due to ill health, said: “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.
“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.”
Bashir commissioned documents purporting to show payments into the bank accounts of members of the royal household and showed them to Earl Spencer, according to Lord Dyson.
He said: “Obviously I regret it, it was wrong. But it had no bearing on anything. It had no bearing on [Diana], it had no bearing on the interview.”
He said he is now concerned the scandal will overshadow the content of what Diana said in the interview.
“She was a pioneering princess. When you think about her expressions of grief in her marriage, when you think about the admission of psychiatric illness – just extraordinary! And her sons have gone on to champion mental health,” he said.
“I don’t understand what the purpose of this is ultimately? OK, maybe you want to destroy me, but outside of this, what’s the point?
“I did something wrong . . . but for pity’s sake, acknowledge something of the relationship we had and something of what she contributed through that interview.
“One of the saddest things about all of this has been the way the content of what she said has almost been ignored.”
Bashir’s comments come after former BBC director-general Lord Tony Hall quit as chairman of the National Gallery after he was heavily criticised in the Dyson report for his botched inquiry into how the interview was obtained.
His resignation comes after another former BBC executive involved in the 1996 internal investigation, Tim Suter, announced on Friday that he was stepping down from his board role with media watchdog Ofcom.
Earl Spencer is reported to have written to Metropolitan Police Commissioner Dame Cressida Dick asking her to investigate the BBC.
Scotland Yard has already said that it will assess Lord Dyson’s findings to determine whether they contain any “significant new evidence”.
Lord Hall, who in 1996 was director of BBC news and current affairs, led the investigation which exonerated Bashir, even though he had previously admitted lying about the fake documents he used in obtaining the interview.
He was director-general when Bashir was controversially rehired by the BBC as religious affairs correspondent in 2016 and later promoted to religion editor.
The chairman of the Commons Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee, Julian Knight, has called on current director-general Tim Davie to provide a full explanation as to how Bashir came to be re-employed.
Mr Knight said that some people may suspect that the journalist was given the religion job as a way of keeping quiet about what exactly he knew.
He told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme the BBC should now consider paying compensation to “whistleblowers” who had had their careers damaged after raising concerns about the way Bashir had operated.
Mr Knight said there was a need for further reform at the BBC, and he called for a strengthening of editorial policy within the corporation.
Mr Davie wrote to BBC staff on Friday saying: “I know that we now have significantly stronger processes and governance in place to ensure that an event like this doesn’t happen again. However we must also learn lessons and keep improving.”
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