The Daily Telegraph
BBC knew about forgery when it rehired Bashir
Critics dismiss ‘whitewash’ inquiry into why job was given to journalist who lied to gain access to Princess
BBC management rehired Martin Bashir despite knowing he had faked documents for his Panorama interview with Diana, Princess of Wales, an internal inquiry has found.
In a report dismissed by critics as a whitewash, the inquiry concluded that Bashir was hired as religious affairs correspondent in 2016 because he was considered the best man for the job.
However, the inquiry found that Bashir was invited to apply for the religion post before it had been advertised, and was the favoured candidate from the beginning.
Jonathan Munro, one of the most senior executives in BBC News, discovered the Panorama fakery while doing background checks on Bashir and raised it with his boss, James Harding, the head of news. Yet Mr Munro “considered these allegations were ‘spent”, according to the report.
Tim Davie, the director-general, welcomed the report and said it showed that the recruitment process “was conducted in good faith”.
However, the Princess’s brother, Earl Spencer, who helped to expose Bashir’s methods, indicated that he did not accept the findings, tweeting: “It won’t end with this, I promise.”
Julian Knight, chairman of the Commons digital, culture, media and sport select committee, said: “That the BBC considered rehiring Martin Bashir when there were high-level doubts over his integrity stretches incredulity to breaking point.
“By this point, as the Dyson report concluded, senior members of the BBC knew that Bashir had lied about the use of faked bank statements to gain access to Princess Diana.
“Where was the due diligence that should have prevented the corporation from rehiring a former member of staff who had not told a very important truth? Where were senior-level discussions?
“What is disturbing is that it appeared the BBC wanted to interview Bashir at the outset, regardless of who else applied for the job. And, not only did they re-employ him, they promoted him.” Bashir was made religion editor in 2018. The inquiry was conducted by Ken Macquarrie, who has spent the past 46 years as a BBC employee and was most recently its director of nations and region.
Bashir was interviewed for the religious affairs role in September 2016 by a panel that included Mr Munro, then head of newsgathering, and James Harding, the director of news.
The report found that Mr Munro met Bashir for coffee in June of that year, and Mr Harding met him in August.
The job was advertised externally on Aug 30. Yet Mr Harding – who was “actively involved in the recruitment process” – had stipulated four days earlier that Bashir should be invited for interview.
By this stage there was only one other interviewee, an internal candidate, who was left under no illusion that the recruitment process was “a done deal”. Mr Macquarrie said in his report: “It is very clear that Mr Bashir was the favourite,” adding that he had “concerns about how fair and transparent the process was”.
Mr Harding told the inquiry that he hired Bashir because he had “a deep knowledge of religion”.
Executives were also aware of Bashir’s controversial career in the US, where he was forced to apologise in one job for making lewd comments about “Asian babes” and resigned from another over derogatory remarks he made about Sarah Palin.
Mr Munro said that he considered the former to be a “misjudged joke”, while Mr Harding said the Sarah Palin remarks “could be disregarded on the basis that Martin Bashir was not being engaged to cover US politics or global diplomacy”.
Lord Hall of Birkenhead, the former director-general of the BBC, who was heavily criticised in the Dyson Report, was cleared by Mr Macquarrie of any role in Bashir’s rehiring.
Mr Macquarrie concluded: “Although there were some shortcomings in the process by which [Bashir] was re-employed, I am satisfied that he was ultimately appointed because his knowledge and experience were considered to be the best match to the requirements for the role at that time.
“I have found no evidence that Martin Bashir was rehired to contain and/or cover up the events surrounding the 1995 Panorama programme.
“In my view, that theory is entirely unfounded.”
‘That the BBC considered rehiring Bashir when there were high-level doubts over his integrity stretches incredulity to breaking point’