Martin Bashir blamed 'jealousy' and racism for Diana interview criticism - as BBC releases 3,000 documents

Martin Bashir told colleagues "professional jealousy" was to blame for allegations that he secured an interview with Princess Diana through deceit, newly released emails reveal.

The journalist wrote the message in 2020 - months before a BBC Panorama interview exposed the scandal surrounding his infamous 1995 interview, in which she said of her relationship with the then Prince Charles: "There were three of us in this marriage."

A damning report found that Bashir had faked bank statements and showed them to Earl Spencer, Diana's brother, in order to gain access to the princess.

In an email dated 20 July 2020, Bashir had written: "I am sorry to hear that this so-called 'forgery' story has reared its head again.

"It played no part in the interview but did allow professional jealousy, particularly within the corporation, to hang its hat on alleged wrongdoing.

"At the time, it was also apparent that there was some irritation that a second-generation immigrant of non-white, working class roots should have the temerity to enter a Royal Palace and conduct an interview."

He added that it would have caused less controversy if a "dynastic" journalist such as a Dimbleby had been involved.

Bashir was born in London to Pakistani parents and attended a comprehensive school in Wandsworth.

His comments are revealed in thousands of emails and documents released by the BBC relating to the circumstances of how he secured the interview with Diana, and any subsequent alleged cover-up by the corporation over his actions.

Bashir, 61, had been asked for the statement after the BBC head of history Robert Seatter received a request to "release an archive interview about the event, which mentions a forgery story involving yourself".

This was ahead of the November 2020 broadcast of an ITV documentary The Diana Interview: Revenge Of A Princess in which graphic designer Matt Wiessler spoke about mocking up the documents for Bashir.

The BBC later apologised and made a financial settlement with Mr Wiessler.

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A judge had ordered the BBC to release the emails in a ruling last month following a freedom of information (FOI) request from journalist Andy Webb.

In a lengthy statement released today the BBC said: "Throughout this process we have taken our responsibilities to comply with the directions of the Tribunal extremely seriously.

"Therefore we've today released approximately 3,000 documents - some 10,000 pages - to Mr Webb. This latest disclosure includes many hundreds of pages of duplicates and material that was not related to the 1995 Panorama, but was nevertheless caught by the electronic searches.

"We have made redactions, where necessary, consistent with the Freedom of Information Act."

Mr Webb said the emails show that the BBC was withholding important internal evidence relating to the investigations into the interview.

In one of the emails, dated 19 October 2019, a lawyer tells a former editor of Panorama that the corporation was "not releasing all of the internal investigations documents at this present time".

Following the release of the emails, Mr Webb said: "The BBC clearly admit that documents were being withheld. In my book, that's a cover-up.

"And it's obvious even on first glance that this material is highly relevant, though the BBC assured the judge that it was entirely irrelevant."

Mr Webb said the emails are so heavily redacted that there would have to be another court challenge.