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Ex-BBC boss says Princess Diana interviewer Bashir ‘abused’ trust

Published: Updated:

A former head of the BBC said on Tuesday that disgraced Princess Diana interviewer Martin Bashir “abused” his trust and would never have been re-employed had his unethical methods been known.

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A report last month found Bashir used fake bank statements to secure his sensational 1995 interview and that a subsequent BBC investigation clearing him of wrongdoing was “woefully inadequate”.

A separate internal BBC review concluded on Tuesday that Bashir’s appointment as religious affairs correspondent in 2016 was fair, and that the theory it was used as a cover-up was “entirely unfounded”.

Tony Hall -- who co-led the BBC’s first inquiry into Bashir in 1996 and was its director-general when Bashir was rehired -- was grilled about the corporation’s work by UK MPs.

He said the initial internal probe in 1996 saw Bashir reduced to tears during a 90-minute interrogation.

“I gave him (Bashir) a second chance and that trust was abused and misplaced,” Hall told a parliamentary committee.

“He was contrite, inexperienced and out of his depth and that is why, rather than sack him, we gave him a second chance.”

But Hall denied responsibility for re-employing Bashir in 2016, despite his previous behavior and controversies arising from his work for US networks, claiming he “devolved” this decision-making to colleagues.

“I was running the organization of 20,000-plus people. I cannot be across every detail,” he said.

“If we knew then what we now know, then of course he would not have been rehired.

“My whole time has been about integrity and getting the truth.”

Bashir’s 1995 interview -- in which Diana said “there were three people” in her marriage to Prince Charles and admitted her own infidelity -- rocked the British monarchy and attracted a record audience of 22.8 million viewers.

Diana’s son Prince William claimed Bashir’s deception and the BBC’s oversight contributed to his parents’ failed marriage and exacerbated his mother’s “fear, paranoia and isolation”.

William’s younger brother Prince Harry went further, claiming a “culture of exploitation and unethical practices” ultimately caused her death in a car crash in Paris in 1997.

The scandal surrounding Bashir comes as the BBC is under sustained pressure from its critics, including over claims of political bias from both left and right.

It is also facing close scrutiny over its public license fee funding model and competition from online streaming services.

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