Princes William, Harry respond to BBC report finding Martin Bashir 'deceived' to secure Princess Diana interview

The BBC appointed a retired judge to lead investigation into 1995 interview.

May 20, 2021, 5:02 PM

Princes William and Harry issued personal statements Thursday in response to the findings of an independent investigation that found then-BBC journalist Martin Bashir "deceived and induced" to secure an interview with their mom, the late Princess Diana.

"It is my view that the deceitful way the interview was obtained substantially influenced what my mother said. The interview was a major contribution to making my parents’ relationship worse and has since hurt countless others," William, the oldest of Prince Charles and Princess Diana's two sons, said in a statement. "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 had been deceived," he said. "She was failed not just by a rogue reporter, but by leaders at the BBC who looked the other way rather than asking the tough questions"

More than 23 million people watched the Panorama interview that Bashir did with Diana, who would die just two years later, in August 1997, after a car crash in the Pont D’Alma Bridge in Paris.

Diana's comments about her marriage to Prince Charles and his alleged affair with his now wife, Camilla, the Duchess of Cornwall, sent shock waves throughout the world -- and the royal family.

When Bashir asked Diana if she thought Camilla was "a factor" in the breakdown of her marriage to Charles, Diana famously replied, "Well, there were three of us in the marriage, so it was a bit crowded."

Diana and Charles divorced just one year after the interview aired, in 1996.

William and his younger brother, Prince Harry, were 15 and 12, respectively, when Diana died in 1997.

Diana, Princess of Wales accompanies sons, Prince Harry and Prince William to Manor House at Eton college, June, 9, 1995.
Daily Mail Rota/AP, FILE

Prince Harry, who now lives in California with his wife Meghan, the Duchess of Sussex, and their son, Archie, also issued a statement in response to the report.

"Our mother was an incredible woman who dedicated her life to service. She was resilient, brave, and unquestionably honest," he said. "The ripple effect of a culture of exploitation and unethical practices ultimately took her life."

"To those who have taken some form of accountability, thank you for owning it. That is the first step towards justice and truth. Yet what deeply concerns me is that practices like these—and even worse—are still widespread today," Harry said. "Then and now, it’s bigger than one outlet, one network, or one publication."

"Our mother lost her life because of this, and nothing has changed," he said. "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."

Bashir is accused in the BBC report of showing Diana's brother, Earl Charles Spencer, fake bank statements in order to manipulate Diana into sitting down for the interview.

"By showing Earl Spencer the fake Waller and Jephson/Aylard statements and informing him of their contents, Mr Bashir deceived and induced him to arrange a meeting with Princess Diana," the report states. "By gaining access to Princess Diana in this way, Mr Bashir was able to persuade her to agree to give the interview. This behaviour was in serious breach of the 1993 edition of the BBC’s Producer Guidelines on straight dealing."

The report -- based on an independent investigation launched last November by the BBC Board and led by Lord Dyson, a retired High Court judge -- also criticized the BBC for its response when concerns were raised soon after the interview aired.

"Without justification, the BBC 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 to; and failing to mention Mr Bashir’s activities or the BBC investigations of them on any news programme," the report states.

William said in response to the report's findings that the failings of the BBC, "not only let my mother down, and my family down; they let the public down too."

Prince William, Princess Diana and Prince Harry attend a ceremony in Hyde Park to mark the 50th anniversary of VE Day in London, May 7, 1995.
Anwar Hussein/Getty Images, FILE

"It is my firm view that this Panorama programme holds no legitimacy and should never be aired again," William said. "It effectively established a false narrative which, for over a quarter of a century, has been commercialized by the BBC and others."

"This settled narrative now needs to be addressed by the BBC and anyone else who has written or intends to write about these events," he said. "In an era of fake news, public service broadcasting and a free press have never been more important. These failings, identified by investigative journalists, not only let my mother down, and my family down; they let the public down too."

Bashir -- who stepped down from his role at the BBC earlier this month due to ongoing health concerns – said in a statement that he "deeply" regrets his actions on the bank statements," but remains "immensely proud" of the interview.

"This is the second time that I have willingly fully co-operated with an investigation into events more than 25 years ago," Bashir said. "I apologised then, and I do so again now, over the fact that I asked for bank statements to be mocked up. It was a stupid thing to do and was an action I deeply regret. But I absolutely stand by the evidence I gave a quarter of a century ago, and again more recently."

"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 said. "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.'"

"It is saddening that this single issue has been allowed to overshadow the princess' brave decision to tell her story, to courageously talk through the difficulties she faced, and, to help address the silence and stigma that surrounded mental health issues all those years ago," Bashir concluded. “She led the way in addressing so many of these issues and that's why I will always remain immensely proud of that interview."

Martin Bashir interviews Princess Diana in Kensington Palace for the television program Panorama, Nov. 20, 1995.
Tim Graham/Corbis via Getty Images, FILE

In March, the Metropolitan Police force announced it would not launch a criminal investigation into Bashir over the interview.

Following the report's release, the head of the BBC offered a "full and unconditional apology."

"The BBC accepts Lord Dyson’s findings in full," BBC director-general Tim Davie said in a statement, in part. "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. 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 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," Davies said. "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.”

A royal source confirms to ABC News that the BBC also sent an apology letter to Buckingham Palace.

The BBC launched its investigation after Spencer renewed his allegations last year that Bashir used fake information and false documents to convince Diana to agree to the interview.

Spencer responded to the report Thursday by writing in a tweet, "I’d like to thank the TV 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."

In the years following the Panorama interview, Bashir, 58, moved to the United States, where he worked for ABC News and MSNBC before returning to the BBC in 2016 as the networks' religious affairs correspondent.

Bashir had been "absent from his role" at the BBC in the months before his resignation due to contracting Covid-19 and undergoing quadruple bypass surgery, according to the BBC.

Related Topics