Did Martin Bashir fake documents to interview Princess Diana?
Martin Bashir landed the “scoop of the century” when he interviewed Princess Diana in 1995. The BBC reporter earned the trust of the royal family member and obtained blunt answers about her personal life, but it now looks as though he may have gained her trust through unsavory means.
A recent documentary on the British network ITV claimed Bashir used unsavory tactics, including the falsification of documents, to secure his interview with Princess Diana. The doc also floated the possibility that Bashir made up rumors about Diana’s royal employees in order to appear more trusting.
Former BBC graphic designer Matthias Wiessler claimed Bashir asked him to make “mock up” bank statements as “props”. He recalled Bashir saying that they were merely for “filming purposes”, but discovered that Bashir had used them to convince Diana her employees were being paid to spy on her.
Wiessler recounted his experience during the ITV documentary. “[Martin] said, ‘Look, I really need two bank statements that I’ve seen that show surveillance, people being paid for keeping an eye on someone,’” he stated. “He wouldn’t put pen to paper, he insisted I did all the work of creating it. Why did I not question it?”
The Princess Diana interview caused a stir upon its initial release. The interview wasn’t sanctioned by Queen Elizabeth II, and Diana’s candidness enraged Buckingham Palace, which led them to reconsider their relationship with the media. Diana parted ways with the royal family soon after.
Bashir reportedly went into hiding the weekend the interview aired to avoid scrutiny, but he was still subjected to a “wrongdoing investigation” by the BBC in 1996. He was cleared of wrongdoing by the network’s chief, Tony Hall. The chief deemed Bashir “an honest man” who was “deeply remorseful” for the controversy he had caused.
Wiessler wasn’t so lucky. “I quite clearly felt that I was the one that was going to be the fall guy in this story,” he stated. Wiessler’s contract was not renewed, and he was forced to leave the industry due to his besmirched name and inability to find work. He claimed to have confronted Bashir about the bank statements, but said that it was “unsatisfying.”
This is not the last time Bashir would be accused of using questionable tactics. Michael Jackson derided his tactics after they worked on the 2003 documentary Living with Michael Jackson. The singer claimed that Bashir took advantage of his kindness and made promises that he never kept in order to gain access to Jackson’s inner circle.
Bashir elicited even more backlash for his disastrous chat with Robert Downey, Jr. in 2015. Downey was promoting Avengers: Age of Ultron, but Bashir opted to bring up the actor’s past struggles with family and drug addiction. Downey responded by walking out of the interview and calling Bashir a “schmuck”.
Bashir worked as a political commentator for MSNBC, but he resigned after making denigrating comments about Sarah Palin in 2013. He called the VP nominee America’s “resident dunce” and claimed that she volunteered her “rank ignorance” whenever she spoke. He later issued an apology with his resignation.
The BBC have launched an investigation into the Princess Diana interview. Tim Davie, the network’s director general, told The New York Times that they fully intend to get to the bottom of the Bashir allegations. “The BBC is taking this very seriously, and we want to get to the truth,” Davie asserted. “We are in the process of commissioning a robust and independent investigation.”
Bashir, who now works as BBC’s religion editor, hasn’t commented on the resurfaced allegations. He’s currently in poor health, as he’s recovering from a COVID-19 diagnosis and a quadruple bypass heart surgery. The publication described his status as “seriously unwell” back in October.