The BBC and ITV have been urged to review how Martin Bashir landed his other big interviews after the damning report into how he deceived Diana, Princess of Wales.
Dorothy Byrne, a former head of news at Channel 4, said yesterday that the revelation in Lord Dyson’s finding that Bashir had used “deceitful behaviour” to secure his Panorama interview in 1995 was scandalous.
The family of Michael Jackson has demanded an apology for his ITV interview with Bashir and the ex-wife of the late footballer George Best claimed that Bashir had exploited him.
Bashir left the BBC in 1999 to join ITV before working in the United States. He was rehired in 2016 as the BBC’s religion correspondent before resigning this month citing ill health.
The Duke of Cambridge and Diana’s brother, Earl Spencer, have accused Bashir of using deceit to prey on her paranoia, which left her without the support of close friends or royal aides.
Bashir, 58, told The Sunday Times that Diana was never unhappy about the content of the interview and that they had remained friends. She visited his wife, Deborah, in hospital after the birth of their third child in 1996.
“I never wanted to harm Diana in any way and I don’t believe we did,” Bashir said. “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 was “deeply sorry” to Princes William and Harry but disputes William’s charge that he fuelled her isolation and paranoia.
William, who had condemned Bashir for making “lurid and false claims about the royal family which played on her fears and fuelled paranoia”, refused to be drawn on the issue during an official visit to Edinburgh yesterday.
Byrne told Trevor Phillips on Sky News: “I think that both BBC and ITV need to look at all his scoops. Other people who have been interviewed by Martin Bashir have complained that he lied to them and we know that the BBC wrote a formal letter to ITV about his conduct on several stories.”
There are questions over Bashir’s ITV interviews with Jackson in 2003, in which the singer admitted sharing a bed with children. Mark Borkowski, Jackson’s UK publicist at the time, said that Bashir had used a letter from Diana while seeking access.
Jackson’s nephew Taj, 47, tweeted: “Bashir’s manipulated footage and unethical journalism is one of the main reasons my uncle Michael is not here today. Shame on those who provided cover for Bashir. Shame on those who rewarded him. My family deserves an investigation & apology too.”
The singer’s brother and former bandmate Tito said: “Bashir created a fake narrative about my brother, which becomes crystal clear when you view the outtakes Bashir kept secret. He used Michael’s trust and friendship with Diana to get the interview, manipulated Michael throughout the interview, then deceptively edited the footage.”
Alex Best, 49, told the Daily Mirror that her late ex-husband believed that he had been “manipulated” and “cheated” by Bashir into giving an ITV interview in 2000 while suffering chronic liver damage brought on by alcoholism. “It’s sad that George isn’t here to see Bashir finally exposed for what he is, because he would be delighted to see it,” she said.
Tim Davie, director-general of the BBC, wrote to staff on Friday: “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.”
The Prince of Wales has told friends that the BBC should stop showing clips of the 1995 interview, according to The Mail on Sunday. Prince Charles did not follow his sons in publicly denouncing Bashir’s deceit. The paper quotes a friend as saying: “There is time needed to think about this but there is a feeling that the BBC shouldn’t be showing any footage at all from the interview.”
Last night Terry Venables, the former England football manager, accused Bashir of using the “same dubious tactics” against him. He is hoping to clear his name over two Panorama episodes presented by Bashir about his financial dealings in 1993 and 1994.
At the time, he complained that documents featured in the broadcast were “cooked up”. Venables, 78, said: “The BBC has an absolute duty to make a clean breast of everything, otherwise how else can we believe their word ever again?”