Who is Martin Bashir? The journalist at the heart of the Princess Diana BBC interview scandal
Written by Hitmix News on 21 May 2021
Martin Bashir’s 1995 Panorama interview with Princess Diana was the must-see TV programme of the decade.
Featuring intimate details of the Prince and Princess of Wales’ failed marriage and Diana’s life inside the Royal Family, it was watched by 23 million people and made Bashir a household name.
Now, 25 years later, a judge’s report has found the journalist “deceived and induced” Diana’s brother to obtain the interview.
Bashir resigned from the BBC days before the report’s release, citing health reasons, but who is the journalist and what else has he done?
Image: The interview with Diana took Martin Bashir from little-known TV reporter to household name
Born in 1963 in Wandsworth, in southwest London, Bashir was one of five children.
He went to a comprehensive school before studying English and history at university in Winchester and then completing a masters at King’s College London.
After graduating in 1986 he became a journalist, getting his first job with the BBC.
Image: Revelations into royal life were shocking. Pic: The Diana interview/ITV
The Diana interview
In 1995, Bashir secured an interview with Princess Diana for BBC current affairs programme Panorama.
Three years after Charles and Diana’s separation and a year before their divorce, the sit-down tell-all was a landmark event, made all the more intriguing by the fact it was led by the then largely unknown 32-year-old TV reporter.
During their chat, Diana spoke about Camilla Parker Bowles being the “third person” in her marriage, her own infidelity with army captain James Hewitt, and her struggles with bulimia, postnatal depression and self-harming.
The revelations became headline news around the world, with some even fearing it could bring down the British monarchy.
Shortly after the interview aired, it was alleged that two counterfeit bank statements had been created to persuade Diana to go ahead with the interview.
A 1996 BBC inquiry cleared Bashir of any wrongdoing, but the new report called the inquiry “woefully ineffective”.
Diana’s younger brother, Earl Spencer, has said he would never have introduced Bashir to his sister had he not been shown faked documents.
Image: Michael Jackson filming with Bashir. Pic: ITV/Shutterstock
In 1999 Bashir moved from the BBC to ITV, and in 2003 he bagged a big name for another high-profile interview – Michael Jackson.
Secured with the help of illusionist and self-proclaimed psychic Uri Geller, Bashir spent eight months working with the singer to produce the documentary Living with Michael Jackson.
With access to Jackson’s Neverland ranch, as well as on the road, it covered topics including the singer’s fear of his strict father, his appearance and use of cosmetic surgery, his own children and his invitations to other children to spend time at his home.
A ratings hit in both the US and the UK, Jackson later complained to the Independent Television Commission and the Broadcasting Standards Commission about his depiction in the show.
Other big scoops
Bashir also interviewed other celebrities including Michael Barrymore and Jeffrey Archer – both of whom had experienced a very public fall from grace.
His other interviews of note featured real people, who were in the news for varying reasons.
They included ex-nanny Louise Woodward, the five suspects in the Stephen Lawrence case, Who Wants To Be A Millionaire contestant Major Charles Ingram and Joanne Lees, the British tourist at the heart of the 2001 Australian murder trial of Bradley John Murdoch.
Bashir has previously won awards for his work, including three BAFTA nominations and the RTS Journalist of the Year award in 1996.
Image: Earl Spencer has criticised the BBC for not ‘facing up’ to allegations over Bashir’s interview
The X Factor: Celebrity
In 2019 Bashir had a brief brush with reality TV, appearing on The X Factor: Celebrity.
Competing in the “over-31s” category, he was mentored by judge Nicole Scherzinger, eventually getting booted out after his performance of Frank Sinatra’s That’s Life, and finishing in ninth place overall.
Bashir said his inspiration to appear on the show was his late brother Tommy who died from muscular dystrophy in 1991.
A music lover, Bashir had previously released a reggae album in 2010.
Bashir has also worked for ABC, US cable channel MSNBC and NBC.
Most recently he was religious affairs correspondent for the BBC.
Image: Bashir resigned from the BBC days before the new report
What’s he up to now?
Bashir was last year said to be seriously unwell with COVID-related complications and not in a position to respond to allegations over his interview with Diana.
However, a photo in November 2020 in The Mail On Sunday reportedly showed him visiting a takeaway and wine shop.
The BBC said at the time that Bashir had been signed off as he was recovering from quadruple heart bypass surgery and had “significant complications from having contracted COVID-19 earlier in the year”.
He resigned from the corporation in May 2021, with the BBC’s deputy director of news saying the journalist was “facing some ongoing issues and has decided to focus on his health”.
Bashir apologised in response to the new report’s findings and said the faking of bank statements was a “stupid thing to do” and “an action I deeply regret”.
However, he added he felt it had “no bearing whatsoever on the personal choice by Princess Diana to take part in the interview”.
BBC director-general Tim Davie has also made a “full and unconditional” apology.