An investigation into the BBC’s rehiring of Martin Bashir as its religious affairs correspondent in 2016 has cleared all of those involved in his recruitment, while also finding there were some “shortcomings” in the process.
The rapid internal investigation, led by longstanding BBC executive Ken MacQuarrie, found that none of those involved in rehiring Bashir had knowledge of the deceitful methods he had used to secure the famous Panorama interview with Diana, Princess of Wales, in 1995.
“I have found no evidence that Martin Bashir was rehired to contain and/or cover up the events surrounding the 1995 Panorama programme,” said MacQuarrie.
“In my view, that theory is entirely unfounded. None of the individuals involved in the recruitment of Martin Bashir had knowledge of all of the matters contained in the Dyson report. I have no doubt that if any of the individuals … had been aware of what is now publicly known … Martin Bashir would never have been reappointed at the BBC.”
Last month a damning inquiry, conducted by the former supreme court judge John Dyson, found that Bashir had engaged in “deceitful behaviour” by commissioning fake bank statements to land the interview.
The judge also criticised Tony Hall, who was director general at the BBC at the time of Bashir’s rehiring, who oversaw an internal investigation of the interview in 1996 when he was head of BBC News.
Dyson said the investigation was “woefully ineffective”, that Hall was aware Bashir was telling “serious and unexplained lies” lies about his methods and that the BBC “covered up in its press logs” what it knew when media began asking questions about how the world exclusive was landed.
Bashir left the BBC in 1999 but was rehired as religion correspondent in late 2016, despite the history of controversy and allegations about the methods he used to obtain the Diana interview which would make him a star. He was later promoted to religion editor.
Last month, the current director general of the BBC, Tim Davie, said in an interview that there was “no doubt” that rehiring Bashir years after the Diana interview had been a “big mistake”.
Last month, James Harding, who was director of BBC News when Bashir was rehired, said he had not been aware that the journalist had forged bank statements. Harding, who left the BBC in 2018, said that if he had known “he wouldn’t have got the job”.