Martin Bashir's TV career, from Diana interview to Dyson report

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image captionMartin Bashir interviewed Princess Diana for Panorama in 1995

Reporter Martin Bashir is at the centre of Lord Dyson's independent inquiry into his 1995 interview with Princess Diana, which found the BBC fell below its "high standards of integrity and transparency".

The inquiry found that Bashir acted in a "deceitful" way and faked documents to obtain his interview.

Bashir went on to work for ITV and in for TV networks in the US, with his interviewees including Michael Jackson and the men suspected of killing Stephen Lawrence.

Here's a timeline of his career, from the point where he secured his interview with the princess:

31 August 1995

Martin Bashir, a 32-year-old reporter for the BBC's Panorama, met Diana's brother, Earl Spencer, at the family's Althorp estate in Northamptonshire. Earl Spencer introduced Bashir to Diana the following month.

20 November 1995

Bashir's exclusive, hour-long interview with Diana was broadcast, in which she admitted to an adulterous affair and spoke about Prince Charles's relationship with Camilla Parker-Bowles, now Duchess of Cornwall, famously saying: "There were three of us in this marriage, so it was a bit crowded."

She also talked frankly about her difficulties with post-natal depression and bulimia.

The explosive interview was watched by 22.8 million people in the UK and made headlines around the globe, winning Bashir a Bafta TV award and the Royal Television Society's title of journalist of the year.

7 April 1996

The Mail on Sunday reported on the existence of two forged bank statements, which Bashir commissioned from graphic designer Matthew Wiessler, and which purported to show payments of thousands of pounds to Earl Spencer's former head of security from newspaper company News International and another company.

The suggestion was that Bashir had used the documents to gain the trust of Earl Spencer and Diana in order to land the interview.

The BBC said at the time: "We have confirmed that in no way were the documents used to gain the interview with Princess Diana."

Press reports also said Wiessler had brought the existence of the documents to the BBC's attention in December 1995, and the corporation had conducted an internal investigation. The BBC said the princess had provided a handwritten letter to confirm "she was more than happy with the way the interview was arranged and conducted".

After the revelations came to light, the BBC opened a second internal inquiry.

29 April 1996

BBC head of news Tony Hall's report concluded that Bashir "wasn't thinking" when he commissioned the graphic, but was ultimately an "honest man" who was not "trying to mislead".

But Hall said Wiessler "will not work for the BBC again".

image captionHe went on to interview Louise Woodward, the British au pair convicted in the US of involuntary manslaughter

1998-2004

In the years that followed, Bashir secured many more headline-grabbing interviews, including another Panorama episode in 1998 with Louise Woodward, the British au pair convicted of the involuntary manslaughter of Matthew Eappen - a baby she was looking after in the US.

He was poached by ITV in 1999 and that year interviewed the five men suspected of killing London teenager Stephen Lawrence.

In Living with Michael Jackson, which was broadcast in 2003, the pop star admitted to Bashir that he shared his bedroom with young children.

Bashir moved to New York in 2004, where he worked on ABC News as co-anchor of their current affairs show Nightline.

6 August 2008

He apologised in 2008, after saying he was "happy to be in the midst of so many Asian babes" in a speech to US journalists at the Asian American Journalists' Association annual banquet in Chicago.

"In fact, I'm happy that the podium covers me from the waist down," he added.

With his ABC co-presenter Juju Chang standing nearby, Bashir added that a speech should be "like a dress on a beautiful woman - long enough to cover the important parts and short enough to keep your interest - like my colleague Juju's".

Bashir later described the remark as a "moment of stupidity".

He left ABC after six years to join MSNBC as a political commentator, where he worked until 2013.

5 December 2013

He quit MSNBC when he became the focus of attention, for remarks he made about former US vice-presidential candidate Sarah Palin.

media captionWatch and excerpt from the original broadcast and Mr Bashir's subsequent apology

In November 2013, he referred to Mrs Palin, a Republican, as a "world-class idiot" for her remarks comparing US debt crisis with slavery. Mr Bashir suggested she eat faeces.

He then broadcast an apology on his show, saying his remarks were "ill-judged".

"It is my sincere hope that all of my colleagues... will be allowed to focus on the issues that matter without the distraction of myself," he said.

"I deeply regret what was said, will endeavour to work hard at making constructive contributions in the future and will always have a deep appreciation for our viewers."

September 2016

Bashir returned to the UK and in 2016 was appointed the BBC's religious affairs correspondent and then religion editor.

He also took part in a celebrity version of ITV's X Factor in 2019.

October and November 2020

Bashir and the bank statements came under scrutiny again when ITV and Channel 4 broadcast documentaries to mark the 25th anniversary of his interview with Diana.

Wiessler told ITV he had been under the impression that the documents he was making were simply "props for filming purposes". He left the media industry in 1999 and said he was made "the fall guy" by the BBC.

The BBC said it had apologised for the faked documents, and promised a new "robust and independent investigation".

Bashir did not comment, with the BBC saying he was recovering from quadruple heart bypass surgery and had experienced significant complications from having contracted Covid-19 earlier in the year.

Princess Diana's brother Charles Spencer also called for a BBC inquiry over the bank statements, which he said helped secure his sister's Panorama interview.

He went on to make new allegations about how the BBC gained his trust and access to his sister, prior to the interview. Earl Spencer said that notes he made at the time of a meeting he held with Bashir suggest the reporter made a number of false and defamatory claims about senior royals.

13 November 2020

The BBC said it had located the handwritten note sent by the princess after the interview, which it had previously said was missing.

18 November 2020

The BBC appointed former Supreme Court judge Lord Dyson to conduct the new inquiry. The move was welcomed by Diana's son Prince William, Duke of Cambridge.

image source, Getty Images

14 May 2021

Bashir stepped down from his role as the BBC's religion editor. The BBC said the 58-year-old was leaving due to ongoing health issues.

Deputy director of BBC News, Jonathan Munro, said: "He let us know of his decision last month, just before being readmitted to hospital for another surgical procedure on his heart.

"Although he underwent major surgery toward the end of last year, he is facing some ongoing issues and has decided to focus on his health."

16 May 2021

The BBC delayed a Panorama investigation into the original interview with Princess Diana due to a "significant duty of care issue".

20 May 2021

Lord Dyson's report is published and found that the BBC fell short of "high standards of integrity and transparency" over Bashir's 1995 interview with Princess Diana.

Bashir acted in a "deceitful" way and faked documents to obtain the interview, the inquiry said, adding that the BBC's own internal probe in 1996 into what happened was "woefully ineffective".

The BBC and Bashir both apologised, and the BBC wrote to Princes William and Harry.

21 May 2021

The day after Lord Dyson's findings were published, the BBC gave written answers to questions about the report from Radio 4's The World at One.

Q: How did Martin Bashir come to be reemployed by the BBC in 2016, and is he still employed?

A: The post was filled after a competitive interview process. We now of course have the Dyson report. We didn't have it then. He has resigned from the BBC. There has been no pay off.

Q: Will his other work be reviewed?

A: As with any editorial issue, we will look where evidence is made available.

The corporation added that "trust is the cornerstone of everything we do".

It said: "We must uphold the highest possible standards and that is what we will do."

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