(CNN) – Prince William, Duke of Cambridge, criticized the BBC for contributing “significantly to the fear, paranoia and isolation” felt by his late mother, Princess Diana, in the years leading up to her death, in a rare emotionally charged statement by a royal against the public broadcaster.
The duke’s comments come after the BBC offered an unconditional apology for BBC journalist Martin Bashir’s controversial 1995 interview with Diana, in which he detailed the breakdown of her relationship with Prince Charles. An investigation found that he used “misleading” methods to secure the historical interview.
The duke also accused the BBC of marketing a “false narrative” about his mother.
A statement on today’s report of The Dyson Investigation pic.twitter.com/uS62CNwiI8
– The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge (@KensingtonRoyal) May 20, 2021
“But what saddens me the most is that if the BBC had properly investigated the complaints and concerns first raised in 1995, my mother would have known that she had been misled. He was failed not only by a rogue journalist, but also by BBC leaders who looked the other way instead of asking the tough questions, ”he said.
“I am of the firm opinion that this Panorama program has no legitimacy and should never be shown again. It effectively established a false narrative that, for more than a quarter of a century, has been marketed by the BBC and others. ‘
The original interview appeared on the “Panorama” program, which is still on the air, and showed a documentary about the controversy on Thursday.
William’s brother, Prince Harry, Duke of Sussex, issued an equally emotional statement after the report, in which he said: “The ripple effect of a culture of exploitation and unethical practices ultimately took his life.”
Harry and his wife, Meghan, the Duchess of Sussex, have fought their own battles against British tabloids in court.
«To those who have assumed some kind of responsibility, thank you for acknowledging it. That is the first step towards justice and truth. However, what worries me deeply is that practices like these, and even worse, are still widespread today. Then, and now, it is bigger than a medium, a network or a publication, “he said.
“Our mother lost her life because of this and nothing has changed. By protecting his legacy, we protect everyone and uphold the dignity with which he lived his life. Let’s remember who he was and what he stood for ».
The BBC offers a ‘full and unconditional apology’
BBC Director General Tim Davie said Thursday that the interview “did not meet what the public has a right to expect.”
“While the BBC cannot turn back the clock after a quarter of a century, we can offer a full and unconditional apology. The BBC offers it today, ”said Davie.
Bashir responded in a statement Thursday that it was “saddening” that “(the controversy) had been allowed to overshadow the princess’s courageous decision to tell her story,” according to the PA Media news agency.
Bashir resigned from his role as the BBC’s religion editor last week, citing health reasons.
The journalist apologized Thursday for using false bank statements, but said they had nothing to do with Diana’s decision to participate in the interview.
“It was a stupid thing and it was an action that I deeply regret,” Bashir said in a statement. “But I absolutely agree with the evidence I gave a quarter of a century ago, and again more recently.”
“I also reiterate that the bank statements had no bearing on Princess Diana’s personal choice to participate in the interview.”
Bashir added that he was proud of the interview.
The Dyson report comes at a very volatile time for the BBC, which is a public broadcasting giant but increasingly under pressure from politicians.
Its publicly funded model faces increasing scrutiny from the government, including UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson.
What did the report find?
The report was commissioned by the BBC and drafted by retired high court judge Lord Dyson. He discovered that Bashir had shown fake bank statements to Diana’s brother, Charles Spencer, who “tricked him into arranging a meeting with Princess Diana.”
“By gaining access to Princess Diana in this way, Mr. Bashir was able to persuade her to agree to give the interview,” says the report, adding that this behavior violated BBC guidelines.
Bashir has long been alleged to have used forged documents suggesting that palace staff were working against Princess Diana and being paid to spy on her, CNN anchor and correspondent Max Foster previously reported.
Matt Wiessler, a former BBC graphic designer, said he replicated fake bank statements after Bashir approached him.
The new report notes that Wiessler was concerned that he “may have played a role in obtaining the interview by deception” and raised his concerns with the BBC shortly after the interview aired. The report says that Wiessler does not face any criticism for accepting the assignment and describes him as “an absolutely reputable graphic designer” who worked as a freelancer for the BBC.
The station launched an internal investigation in 1996 and concluded that the documents had been falsified but did not influence Diana’s decision to participate in the interview.
Bashir initially claimed that he had not shown the documents to anyone, but admitted otherwise in March 1996, as found by Dyson.
The report criticizes both Bashir’s behavior and the way the BBC carried out the 1996 investigation.
It concludes that “without justification” the BBC “covered up … facts, as it had been able to establish how Mr. Bashir got the interview.”
Dyson added that the BBC also “did not mention the issue at all on any news program and therefore failed to meet the high standards of integrity and transparency that are its hallmark.”
Former BBC Director General Tony Hall, who was in charge of news and current affairs at the time of the controversy, said Thursday that he was “wrong to give Martin Bashir the benefit of the doubt.” according to PA Media.
The 1995 interview was a seismic moment in British public life.
During the event, Diana told Bashir that there were “three of us” in her marriage to Charles, referring to Camilla Parker Bowles, whom the heir to the throne would later marry.
Buckingham Palace was shocked by the interview and was thrown into crisis by Diana’s comments, which shed a rare light on the inner workings of the royal family.