The journalist Martin Bashir is ‘seriously unwell’ with coronavirus, the BBC announced last night.
Corporation chiefs confirmed the 57-year-old, who currently works as the news channel’s religion editor, is very ill with complications of the virus.
News of Bashir’s ill health came on the 25th anniversary of his famous interview with Diana, Princess of Wales, for Panorama in 1995. It was announced less than an hour before a Channel 4 documentary about the tell-all chat aired last night.
The journalist was already unwell in early October, when the BBC said he was too ill to respond to press requests for comment about a story on the interview.
Veteran journalist Martin Bashir is ‘seriously unwell’ with coronavirus-related complications, the BBC has said
A spokesman for the BBC said: ‘We are sorry to say that Martin is seriously unwell with Covid-19 related complications.
‘Everyone at the BBC is wishing him a full recovery. We’d ask that his privacy, and that of his family, is respected at this time.’
His colleague Simon McCoy sent a message of support on hearing the news: ‘Wishing you well – and thinking of you.’
On October 5, the Sunday Times – in an article released ahead of the Channel 4 documentary – published claims that Bashir had shown Earl Spencer two forged bank statements in an attempt to convince her to meet.
In response, the BBC said Bashir was unwell and unable to respond, although a spokesman insisted the fake documents did not play a role in securing the interview.
On last night’s film, a lawyer claimed the allegations could lead to a criminal case, but did not provide any further detail.
Bashir began working as a journalist in 1986 but made headlines around the world in 1995 for his BBC interview with Diana, Princess of Wales for Panorama.
The broadcast attracted 23million viewers and sent shockwaves throughout the royal family.
Bashir’s other high-profile interviews have included the suspects in the Stephen Lawrence murder case, entertainer Michael Barrymore, Jeffrey Archer and Major Charles Ingram, dubbed ‘the coughing major’.
In 2003, he conducted a series of interviews with pop singer Michael Jackson for the controversial ITV documentary Living With Michael Jackson.
This saw Bashir confront Jackson about claims he had an unhealthy relationship with children.
The journalist later moved to the US where he co-anchored the current affairs show Nightline on ABC before moving to MSNBC.
He resigned from the corporation in 2013 with an apology for calling former US vice-presidential candidate Sarah Palin a ‘world-class idiot’.
The news of his illness came as Britain yesterday recorded 26,688 more Covid-19 cases and 191 deaths, with the number of daily infections rising by a third in a week.
News of Bashir’s illness comes amid renewed interest in his career-making 1995 Panorama interview with Princess Diana
It is not known when Bashir contracted the virus, with the BBC only confirming that he was ‘seriously unwell’ l
Diana: The Truth Behind the Interview made a series of new revelations about the interview.
This included claims the princess told a national newspaper editor her marriage was ‘hell from day one’ and that she ‘hated’ the Prince of Wales.
The Channel 4 film claims the royal also told the then editor of The Daily Telegraph, Sir Max Hastings, that Charles was not up to the task of kingship.
According to the documentary, the BBC was Diana’s second choice to tell her story, as three months before the Panorama interview she attempted to get her story out in a two-hour, one-on-one briefing with the then Daily Telegraph editor.
The programme claims Diana told Sir Max that she ‘hated’ Charles and that the marriage ‘had been hell from day one’.
She is said to have branded the prince not up to the task of kingship and said that their son the Duke of Cambridge should be the next king, and that she was the target of an assassination plot.
Princess Diana was ‘defiant’ about Panorama interview
Princess Diana was ‘defiant’ about her Panorama interview with Martin Bashir, a royal expert has claimed.
The late royal was determined to ‘win back her reputation’ with the explosive TV interview, because ‘she was terrified the Royal family would take her boys away’, according to Ingrid Seward.
Speaking to The Telegraph, the royal biographer said the princess had been ‘highly vulnerable and fairly desperate’ when she granted the interview to Panorama in 1995.
The royal expert said she was invited by Princess Diana for a ‘girlie chat’ at Kensington Palace 18 months after the interview.
She claimed the late royal told her she ‘regretted talking about James Hewitt’ because she feared it could ‘hurt her sons.’
However Ingrid said Diana was ‘glad’ she had spoken of her bulimia, having received a flood of messages and letters from others who suffered from eating disorders.
According to the documentary, Sir Max declined to publish, saying that Diana appeared vulnerable and impressionable and that her interests were best served if issues were not exposed while the couple worked through their problems in private.
At the time of her death in 1997 in a Paris car crash, the princess had been divorced for a year after the final stages of her marriage break-up had become public.
Diana’s marital troubles – and issues such as her bulimia and suicide attempts – had been laid bare in the 1992 Andrew Morton book Diana: Her True Story.
Three years later came more revelations when she told the BBC Panorama documentary: ‘Well, there were three of us in this marriage, so it was a bit crowded,’ a reference to Camilla Parker Bowles – who the Prince of Wales later married.
In 1994, Charles had confessed to adultery in a TV interview with broadcaster Jonathan Dimbleby, but only after his marriage had ‘irretrievably broken down’.
The Channel 4 film also re-aired claims that the reason the princess decided to speak was because her brother, Earl Spencer, had been shown forged bank statements created by someone working for the BBC.
The documents showed payments worth £10,500 from two companies, one of which was News International, and the other was from a company with an invented name.
The graphic designer who says he mocked up the false documents even explained on the documentary how he did it.
The BBC made a statement which acknowledged the document was shown to Earl Spencer, but said it had a letter from Diana confirming this did not mislead her into taking the interview.
But in 2007, it was claimed this letter either did not exist or had been list, which Morton casts doubt upon.
‘If they received a letter basically saying the Princess of Wales, herself, was very happy about the way the programme was made, that would bomb-proof them against any future concerns,’ he said.
A handwritten note from Princess Diana attested to the fact the Princess had not seen the ‘mocked-up’ bank statements and that they played no part in her decision to give the interview.
The documentary alleges the reason she decided to take the BBC interview was because her brother, Earl Spencer, was shown forged bank statements created by someone working for the BBC
It is reported that the late royal ‘did not regret the interview’ about her marriage to Prince Charles because she ‘wanted the world to see who she really was’
Channel 5 released its own documentary on the Bashir interview called Diana: The Interview That Shocked The World.
It revealed the Queen described the tell-all chat as a ‘frightful thing’ to have done during a lunch with Sir Richard Eyre, former director of the National Theatre, shortly after the 1995 broadcast.
Sir Richard, who was a BBC governor at the time, told the programme earlier this month: ‘I had lunch with the Queen not long after and she said to me unprompted, ‘How are things at the BBC?’ and I said, ‘Oh well, fine’. And she said, ‘Frightful thing to do, frightful thing that my daughter-in-law did’.’
Sir Richard also remarked on the make-up worn by Diana during her encounter with interviewer Martin Bashir.
He said: ‘It’s like somebody who has been very, very tearful, and then run out of a room and come back ten minutes later having restored their make-up.
‘I think that’s a conscious decision. I think that she presented herself as a victim. The artfulness of the appearance of spontaneity – that’s acting.’
The documentary also saw Diana’s butler Paul Burrell recount how he smuggled Bashir into Kensington Palace under a blanket in his car.
Burrell said he had no idea at the time Diana’s friendship with Bashir would lead to a major interview.
The first time he brought Bashir to Kensington Palace was upon a request from Diana herself in October 1995, about a month before the fateful interview that would rock the nation.
Professor John Edmunds (left) told MPs on the Science and Technology Committee today that he would not use the three-tier local lockdown system being used by Prime Minister Boris Johnson (right)