News & Politics

U.S. Media Should Take a Lesson From BBC Apology for Fake News During Princess Diana Interview. They Won't.

(AP Photo/Jacqueline Arzt Larma, File)

Well kids, it turns out that it’s bad practice for the media to pass off fake news as real and pretend it was real for decades.

That’s the upshot of an investigation into media practices of the BBC in its “get” of the century back in 1995 – that Panorama interview of Princess Diana by Martin Bashir. You’ll remember it was the one in which Diana talked about her bulimia and royal life. The one in which she memorably said, “There were three of us in this marriage,” referring to Camilla Parker Bowles, who continued to have an affair with Prince Charles before, during, and after the royal divorce. Camilla later dumped her husband and kids to become the Duchess of Cornwall. The formerly chain-smoking hag makes those dumb hats the royals wear look even dumber.

Now, where was I? Oh, yes, fake news.

Bashir told Diana’s brother, the 8th Earl of Spencer, that the journalist had canceled checks to prove that the royals were paying spooks to watch an already paranoid Diana.

Bashir asked the station’s graphics department to mock up fake checks to prove the payoff and showed them to Spencer. The report quotes Bashir:

I contacted the programme’s graphic designer, Matt Weissler, and asked if he could sketch out graphic reconstructions of a bank statement in the name of Mr [Alan] Waller [a former employee of Spencer] with various sums of money received by him… I believe I was travelling over the next few days, to meet with other potential sources, which is why I had the graphics delivered so that I would have them on my person in case I was able to meet with Earl Spencer during this period of travel.

Britain’s Daily Express reports that the “evidence” convinced Earl Spencer that Diana wasn’t paranoid, but prescient, and that he must tell her immediately.

Earl Spencer spoke about his first meeting with Mr Bashir in which the journalist produced bank statements claiming to show Diana and Prince Charles’ closest advisers were secretly being paid to spy on the Princess.

He told the BBC: “This was such a major upgrade in what Bashir was telling me that I knew Diana had to know about it.

“She wrote me a note that I still have, saying ‘it all made sense’.

“I think that she was looking for a reason as to why things were as they were.”

The report says Diana’s attorney told investigators that Diana was already convinced that someone would try to kill her and that Bashir took advantage of her fragile state.

A note made on 31 October 1995 by Lord Mischon, her solicitor, provides a good insight into her mental state at the time. It records a meeting between Princess Diana, Commander Jephson and himself. It states that Princess Diana had been informed of various things by reliable sources, including that “efforts would be made if not to get rid of her (be it by some accident in her car, such as pre-prepared brake failure or whatever), now and then, then at least to see that she was so injured or damaged as to be declared ‘unbalanced’. She was convinced that there was a conspiracy….” Mr Bashir would have little difficulty in playing on her fears and paranoia.

Retired judge Lord Dyson’s report, released on Thursday, lampooned the BBC’s own internal investigation in the 1990s as “ineffective.”

Bashir acted in a “deceitful” way and faked documents to obtain the interview, the inquiry said.

And the BBC’s own internal probe in 1996 into what happened was “woefully ineffective”, it added.

Bashir lied about showing the fake documents to anyone and was given a pass in the 1996 investigation. He subsequently worked in both Britain and the U.S. Then he got hired back to the BBC as its religion reporter. He just left the job due to “health issues.”

The BBC has written letters of apology to Earl Spencer and Princes William and Harry.

It’s also giving back all the awards it won for the interview, including the “TV Bafta” award won in 1996.

Which reminds me … Shouldn’t all the media outlets that reported the fake news/oppo-research “dossier” that Trump-Is-a-Russian-Secret-Agent gift-wrapped from John Brennan, Glenn Simpson, and Christopher Steele — and paid for Hillary Clinton — return all their awards?

C-SPAN screenshot of Jake Tapper receiving the Merriman Smith Award at the WHCA Dinner for Trump-Russia reporting.

Just a thought.