Martin Bashir won over BBC with his grasp of theology

John Ware, the reporter behind the devastating BBC Panorama investigation into Martin Bashir’s famous 1995 interview with Diana, Principessa del Galles, claims the BBC bosses who gave the reporter his most recent job were blinded by the depth of his theological knowledge.

According to Ware, the small BBC appointments board that gave Bashir the role of religious affairs correspondent in 2016 did not ask questions about his dubious record at the BBC, nor at Tonight on ITV, where he had interviewed Michael Jackson, nor in America at ABC and then NBC. Criticism of his methods and attitudes had made newspaper headlines several times with each broadcaster. Anziché, Bashir’s response to a question that was asked of all candidates about the doctrine of St Paul won them over.

“Asked by the then head of news and current affairs, James Harding, to explain the difference between the Pauline doctrine and the original teachings of Jesus Christ, Bashir apparently acquitted himself brilliantly. Harding, himself a theology buff, was duly impressed,” writes Ware. The BBC announcement of Bashir’s appointment that September praised his “immense knowledge” as a “student of theology”.

Specific questions were not asked, Ware believes, about the background to the Panorama interview that had increased the isolation of the Princess from the rest of the royal family. This was despite the fact that senior BBC news staff, including the serving director general, Lord Hall of Birkenhead, were already aware of Bashir’s deceptions.

Hall, Oms stepped down from his new chairmanship of the National Gallery earlier this month following the release of the Dyson report into the affair, had been told during a 1996 internal BBC investigation that duplicity had been used to secure the interview. He may also have been required to rubberstamp Bashir’s later appointment to the role of BBC religion editor.

Writing in the Observer today, Ware blames Bashir’s showmanship and fluency just as much as the mistakes of those who gave him his second job.

“For all the post-Dyson ballyhoo over Bashir-gate, there aren’t that many lessons for the BBC to learn – other than the fact that Martin “whatever it takes” Bashir is a one-off: shameless and irrepressible.”

Ware, a freelance journalist, goes on to defend the BBC’s wider journalistic integrity, which he argues has always been more scrupulous than rival news organisations.

“The ultimate health test of any broadcaster is the extent to which it is prepared to wash its dirty linen in public. On Dyson, the BBC has proved that in spades, as it has with previous BBC crises both investigating and reporting its failings [Hutton e Savile] with unsparing honesty.”

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