Meet Martin Bashir, the disgraced journalist who interviewed Princess Diana in 1995
He secured the world exclusive – but decades later, his deceit was exposed
Season five of The Crown kicks off with a betrayed Diana wanting to tell the world her side of the story. Her marriage had tanked, she wasn’t being listened to by the monarchy, and millions of people were buying her “unofficial” biography – desperate to hear everything she had to say.
She believed, for reasons that only became clear 25 years later, that she had no choice but to clear her name on national TV. BBC greenlit the interview and, as 23 million people watched on, Princess Diana opened up about the cheating accusations, rumours of her bulimia and the Royal Family’s dismissal of her feelings.
The guy who sourced, acquired and conducted the infamous interview was Martin Bashir. Despite the episode quickly becoming one of the highest points in his career, it eventually caused everything to come crashing down on him. Now, he’s known as a disgraced journalist; having resigned from the BBC in 2021.
This is everything you need to know about Bashir – including the sordid ways he made the interview happen:
Who is Martin Bashir?
Bashir had been reporting for over a decade by the time he pitched the Panorama interview. He started out as a freelance sports journalist, before joining the BBC in 1986. He instantly began presenting high-profile programmes like Songs of Praise (lol) and Panorama.
After BBC aired An Interview with HRH The Princess of Wales, Bashir became a household name. ITV poached him a couple of years later, and he spent the remainder of his time in the UK presenting segments of Trevor McDonald’s show. By this point, Bashir was known for his major celeb interviews – including one with Michael Jackson in 2003.
In 2004, he co-anchored ABC show Nightline from New York. He was later suspended for making jokes about “Asian babes” and erections at the Asian American Journalists Association convention.
Bashir bounced back quickly and, after 12 years working in the US, he came back to work at the BBC World Service. In 2021, just before the publication of the Princess Diana/Panorama report, he resigned due to ill health. He hasn’t worked in the industry since.
What happened with Panorama?
By 2020, 25 years after Princess Diana’s death, other TV channels started to run documentaries on the Panorama interview. Channel 4’s exposé – Diana: The Truth Behind The Interview – was the first to suggest any wrongdoing on the part of the BBC. The possibility of the Panorama team using subterfuge and tricky tactics to convince the Princess to take part seemed more plausible than ever.
The new documentary-makers at Panorama decided to investigate for themselves. They found Bashir himself had asked BBC designers to forge bank statements, telling Diana and her brother, the Earl Spencer, that people close to them were being paid to spy on her. The already distressed and paranoid Princess was cornered into taking the narrative into her own hands.
BBC Director General Tim Davie issued a formal apology to Earl Spencer for the falsified statements – but Spencer rejected this. He demanded a full inquiry into the conduct of Bashir and the 1995 Panorama team. While it’s a known fact Diana never regretted doing the interview, her family still felt upset she was deceived in this way.
In May 2021, Bashir resigned from the BBC, saying his health issues (a quadruple heart bypass and nasty bout of Covid) were getting in the way of his work. Just a few weeks later, he was found guilty of deceit and breaching the BBC’s editorial guidelines.
Season five of The Crown is now available on Netflix. For all the latest Netflix news, drops, quizzes and memes like The Holy Church of Netflix on Facebook.
Related stories recommended by this writer:
- Here’s everything we know about Princess Diana’s goddaughter, Leonora Knatchbull
- Everything you need to know about Andrew Morton, Princess Diana’s secret biographer
- The Crown season five: Wait, did Prince Charles actually try to overthrow the Queen?!
Featured image via Netflix.