Britain’s Prince William, Duke of Cambridge (L) and Britain’s Prince Harry, Duke of Sussex follow the coffin during the ceremonial funeral procession of Britain’s Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh to St George’s Chapel in Windsor Castle in Windsor, west of London, on April 17, 2021.
ALASTAIR GRANT | AFP | Getty Images
LONDON — Britain’s Prince William has sharply criticized the BBC for failing his late mother, Princess Diana, saying the deceitful way a journalist at the U.K. broadcaster secured an exclusive interview with her in 1995 fueled her feelings of isolation and worsened his parents’ relationship.
In a separate statement issued at the same time on Thursday, Prince Harry blamed a toxic media culture for his mother’s death.
William and Harry’s comments came shortly after an inquiry found that BBC journalist Martin Bashir had used duplicitous means to win an interview with Diana and that the broadcaster had since sought to cover it up.
Diana died in a car crash in Paris at age 36 in 1997. Two years earlier, during a sensational BBC “Panorama” interview, more than 20 million people watched on as Diana shared details of her marriage to Prince Charles, the heir to the throne.
“It is my view that the deceitful way the interview was obtained substantially influenced what my mother said. The interview was a major contribution to making my parents’ relationship worse and has since hurt countless others,” William, the Duke of Cambridge, said in a statement late Thursday.
“It brings indescribable sadness to know that the BBC’s failures contributed significantly to her fear, paranoia and isolation that I remember from those final years with her,” he added.
Martin Bashir interviews Princess Diana in Kensington Palace for the television program Panorama.
Tim Graham | Corbis Historical | Getty Images
Late last year, the BBC launched an investigation following allegations from Charles Spencer, Diana’s brother, that he had been tricked into introducing her to Bashir. The findings of the inquiry, led by former senior judge John Dyson, found that Bashir had commissioned fake bank statements by a graphic designer who worked for the BBC.
They purported to show bank transactions suggesting Diana was being bugged by the security services and that two senior aides were being paid to provide stories about her. The BBC said the investigation found that Bashir “showed the fake documents to Earl Spencer, to gain his trust so he would introduce Bashir to Diana.” It said Bashir repeatedly lied to his bosses about how the interview was obtained, while senior figures at the broadcaster were said to have failed to scrutinize his version of events thoroughly.
Bashir has apologized for the fake statements. However, he also said he stood by the evidence he gave 25 years ago and more recently, claiming that the bank statements had “no bearing whatsoever” on Diana’s choice to take part in the interview.
The BBC said it had written to Buckingham Palace to apologize.
“The ripple effect of a culture of exploitation and unethical practices ultimately took her life,” Harry said in a separate statement.
“To those who have taken some form of accountability, thank you for owning it. That is the first step towards justice and truth,” he continued. “Yet what deeply concerns me is that practices like these — and even worse — are still widespread today. Then, and now, it’s bigger than one outlet, one network, or one publication.”
Harry and wife Meghan, the Duchess of Sussex, stepped back from their roles as working royals early last year, citing hostility from the British tabloid press that they said Buckingham Palace had failed to defend them from.
“She was failed not just by a rogue reporter, but by leaders at the BBC who looked the other way rather than asking the tough questions,” William said of his mother.
“These failings, identified by investigative journalists, not only let my mother down, and my family down; they let the public down too,” he added.