The BBC “fell short of high standards of integrity and transparency” when it comes to journalist Martin Bashir’s famous 1995 interview with Princess Diana, an official BBC inquiry stated on Thursday.
According to the inquiry, which was led by former British Supreme Court Judge John Dyson, Bashir had shown fake bank statements to Diana’s brother, Charles Spencer, which “deceived and induced him to arrange a meeting with Princess Diana.” Bashir later lied to BBC managers about them, the inquiry said. The Sunday Times previously reported that the fake documents tapped into Princess Diana’s fears that her private conversations were being bugged by the secret services.
The BBC’s director general, Tim Davie, apologized in a statement on Thursday.
“Although the report states that Diana, Princess of Wales, was keen on the idea of an interview with the BBC, it is clear that the process for securing the interview fell far short of what audiences have a right to expect,” the statement reads. “We are very sorry for this. Lord Dyson has identified clear failings.”
“While today’s BBC has significantly better processes and procedures, those that existed at the time should have prevented the interview being secured in this way,” the statement continues. “The BBC should have made greater effort to get to the bottom of what happened at the time and been more transparent about what it knew. While the BBC cannot turn back the clock after a quarter of a century, we can make a full and unconditional apology. The BBC offers that today.”
Meanwhile, Bashir has apologized for mocking up the documents, but said in a statement to the BBC that the fake bank documents “had no bearing whatsoever on the personal choice by Princess Diana to take part in the interview.” He referred to a handwritten note from her that was included in the investigation, which reads, “Martin Bashir did not show me any documents, nor give me any information that I was not previously aware of.” Bashir said he is still “immensely proud” of the interview.
Bashir left his position as BBC’s Religion Editor last week, citing ongoing health issues.
Princess Diana’s interview, in which she talked openly about her battle with bulimia as well as her unhappy marriage to Prince Charles, made headlines around the world at the time.
“There were three of us in this marriage, so it was a bit crowded,” she famously said of her marriage to Prince Charles, referring to his relationship with his now wife, Camilla Parker Bowles.
In 1996, the BBC carried out an internal inquiry that cleared Bashir and BBC News of wrongdoing, but the network commissioned a new independent inquiry last year after Spencer blasted the BBC for the interview 25 years later.
“[The BBC] have yet to apologize for what truly matters here: the incredibly serious falsification of bank statements suggesting that Diana’s closest confidants were spying on her for her enemies,” Spencer told People in November. “This was what led me to talk to Diana about such things. This in turn led to the meeting where I introduced Diana to Bashir, on 19 September 1995. This then led to the interview.”
After the BBC’s recent findings from their investigation were made public, Spencer posted a childhood photo of himself with his sister, the Princess of Wales. “Some bonds go back a very long way,” he captioned the image.