LONDON — The BBC has apologized after an investigation concluded that journalist Martin Bashir used “deceitful behavior” to secure a landmark interview with Diana, Princess of Wales.
An independent report published Thursday after a monthslong probe found that Bashir acted inappropriately and breached the publicly funded broadcaster’s editorial guidelines in order to gain access to the royal, who famously told him in the November 1995 interview that “there were three of us in this marriage.”
She was referring to her husband Prince Charles’ affair with Camilla Parker Bowles, who he would go on to marry in 2005, eight years after Diana’s death in a car crash in August 1997.
The watershed interview was watched by more than 20 million people in Britain and sent shockwaves through the royal family. Months after it aired, Diana and Charles divorced.
Bashir’s interview came under renewed scrutiny after the release of a documentary by British broadcaster ITV called “The Diana Interview: Revenge of a Princess,” which aired last November. It claimed that Bashir had a graphic designer create fake bank statements, which he then allegedly used to convince Diana that royal employees were being paid to spy on her.
Diana’s brother, Charles Spencer, tweeted on Nov. 8 that he knew Bashir “used fake bank statements and other dishonesty to get my sister to do the interview.”
Spencer also claimed that he found out that the BBC knew about the fake bank statements as well. He demanded the network apologize for the falsified documents that led him to introduce Bashir to his sister.
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Just 10 days later, the network appointed Lord John Anthony Dyson, a former Justice of the U.K.’s Supreme Court, to look into the circumstances surrounding the interview.
His report concluded that Bashir did indeed commission the bank statements and show them to Earl Spencer, Diana’s younger brother, to “induce him to arrange the meeting with Princess Diana.”
Responding to the findings, Bashir said in a statement that he apologized “over the fact that I asked for bank statements to be mocked up.” This was “a stupid thing to do and was an action I deeply regret,” he said.
“I also reiterate that the bank statements had no bearing whatsoever on the personal choice by Princess Diana to take part in the interview,” he added. “Evidence handed to the inquiry in her own handwriting (and published alongside the report today) unequivocally confirms this, and other compelling evidence presented to Lord Dyson reinforces it. In fact, despite his other findings, Lord Dyson himself in any event accepts that the Princess would probably have agreed to be interviewed without what he describes as my ‘intervention’.”
The investigation also looked at an internal investigation conducted by the BBC after the original broadcast, which concluded that Bashir did not coerce Diana into speaking with him.
The report said the broadcaster “fell short of the high standards of integrity and transparency which are its hallmark by covering up in its press logs such facts as it had been able to establish about how Mr Bashir secured the interview and failing to mention Mr Bashir’s activities or the BBC investigations of them on any news programme.”
BBC Director-General Tim Davie also apologized, saying in statement that it was “clear that the process for securing the interview fell far short of what audiences have a right to expect.”
Hours before the findings were released, Charles Spencer tweeted a childhood photo with Diana, alongside the message: “Some bonds go back a very long way.” He has not publicly commented since the report was published.
Some bonds go back a very long way. pic.twitter.com/BFpBiScOyT
— Charles Spencer (@cspencer1508) May 20, 2021
Bashir went to work for another British network before joining ABC in the U.S., and later MSNBC where he was a news anchor. He went back to the BBC in 2016 and resigned last week as religious affairs editor, after months of ill health.
The BBC revealed last year that the 58-year-old had suffered from serious coronavirus complications and had heart surgery.
After the investigation was launched, Diana’s sons, Prince William and Prince Harry, said they welcomed it as a chance to find out the truth about what had happened. Neither has commented since the report’s publication.
British police ruled out a criminal investigation into his actions earlier this year, but the independent inquiry’s conclusions are likely to have far-reaching implications for the BBC.
It also comes at a sensitive time for the Royal family amid concerns that the new generation of royals are suffering from media intrusion. Prince Harry and Meghan, the Duchess of Sussex, have repeatedly complained about the tabloid press and won a series of court cases against a number of outlets.
Reuters and the Associated Press contributed to this report