The BBC rehired Martin Bashir despite the deception over his Princess Diana interview being known within the corporation after an executive said he was desperate to win awards, a senior source says.
The BBC accepted his resignation rather than sacking him, meaning he is believed to be drawing his £100,000-a-year salary until his three-month notice period ends in July.
Jonathan Munro, the deputy director of news, was identified by senior BBC insiders as the primary force behind rehiring Bashir in 2016, The Times reports.
A source said £180,000-a-year Munro told staff he ‘wanted to shake up the BBC’ and ‘win awards for its scoops’.
Munro had been recruited as head of news gathering in 2013 following a 26-year career at ITV, where he had become deputy editor. He is now BBC News’ deputy director.
BBC director-general Tim Davie yesterday said he did not know why Bashir had been rehired, and the conclusion of a ‘quick’ investigation would be revealed next week.
An official confirmed that Bashir underwent an ‘interview process’.
It comes as the BBC prepares to shell out significant compensation to the whistleblower who exposed Bashir’s Panorama forgeries only to be made a fall guy for the scandal.
Martin Bashir (pictured) is still earning up to £2,000 a week from taxpayers despite plunging the BBC into its biggest crisis for decades, it has emerged
Graphic artist Matt Wiessler alerted bosses to fake bank statements Bashir used to land his 1995 Princess Diana interview.
But he suffered 25 years of strain in his business, and in turn his marriage, after the BBC secretly blacklisted him.
Jonathan Munro, the deputy director of news, was identified by senior BBC insiders as the primary force behind rehiring Bashir in 2016
Yesterday Tim Davie, the director-general of the BBC, said: ‘The very person who raised this suffered enormous impacts – which we are very sorry for. That cannot happen again.’
Mr Davie was speaking on Radio 4’s Today programme following last week’s damning Dyson report which criticised the methods Bashir used to secure his interview.
In the grilling he confirmed Bashir is still on the BBC payroll and had not been sacked. The broadcaster’s religion editor, 58, stepped down in April citing health reasons.
Asked why Bashir had not been fired, he said: ‘Martin Bashir offered his resignation, prior to us seeing the Dyson report.
‘I think there were three reasons why I accepted the resignation. One, there were very significant medical care issues, which in terms of Martin Bashir as a staff member, regardless of all the situation around it, is a factor.
‘Two, it allowed a clean break with no pay-off, which I thought was in the licence-fee payers’ interest. And three, there was no restraint in us getting to the truth – this was not an honourable discharge.’
Mr Davie also admitted he did not know why Bashir, who left the BBC for ITV in 1999, had been rehired in 2016 despite many in the corporation being aware of the Panorama claims.
Mark Killick, the producer sacked within 24 hours of alerting BBC bosses to the forged documents in 1995
Diana, Princess of Wales, during her 1995 interview with Martin Bashir for BBC’s Panorama
He promised a ‘quick investigation’ into the mystery, saying: ‘We’re interviewing people, getting the documents, and we should be able to publish something next week. There’s no doubt, with what you know now, it was a big mistake.’
The investigation is being carried out by BBC troubleshooter Ken MacQuarrie, a board member who in 2012 investigated Newsnight for falsely accusing Lord McAlpine of abusing care home boys.
Mr Davie also told Today that whistleblower Mr Wiessler deserved a ‘fulsome and unconditional apology’, adding that he hoped to be able to deliver it in person. Asked by interviewer Justin Webb whether the BBC owed him compensation, Mr Davie replied: ‘This does need to go through a legal discussion. All I’ll say is, we’ll engage in that discussion because clearly we were at fault.’
Mr Wiessler has never demanded money – simply for the truth to come out and for the BBC chiefs who smeared him to acknowledge how it ruined him.
Nonetheless he is likely to be owed a substantial sum for lost earnings and distress over the years. BBC sources said that the corporation hopes to settle quickly and does not expect a drawn-out legal process.
Graphic artist Matt Wiessler alerted bosses to fake bank statements Bashir used to land his 1995 Princess Diana interview
Others who could be in line for a payout include Mark Killick, the producer sacked within 24 hours of alerting BBC bosses to the forged documents in 1995.
In a wide-ranging grilling on Today, Mr Davie also said parts of Bashir’s Diana interview could still be shown again – despite Prince William’s heartfelt plea last week for that not to happen. While saying he had ‘no intention of airing the interview ever again’, Mr Davie admitted segments might be used ‘in context’.
He refused to agree with Diana’s brother who had said he could ‘draw a line’ between the princess meeting Bashir in 1995 and her death in Paris two years later. He said: ‘I haven’t got the evidence for that. It’s not a question of rejecting it. I’m just driven by the evidence in the [Dyson] report.’
The director-general denied being evasive as he stumbled on the question of when he had first known Bashir had lied about documents.
He said: ‘Personally… I mean… I think… I knew it when I read Dyson.’ He added: ‘I’m not being evasive, because I’d heard, obviously I’d heard the claims of Earl Spencer, I’d read reports, but when I knew it was when I got that Supreme Court judge to go and do the analysis.’
Asked when he had suspected it, Mr Davie said: ‘When I saw evidence coming to me that was firm evidence that clearly things that had gone horribly wrong in that investigation.’ In his report last week, former master of the rolls Lord Dyson said ‘devious’ Bashir had used lies and smears to obtain his interview, which was then ultimately covered up by a ‘woefully ineffective’ internal investigation led by the then head of news and current affairs Lord Hall.
The BBC also imposed a news blackout to keep a lid on the scandal.
In the Commons on Monday, Conservative MP Julian Knight used Parliamentary privilege to suggest Bashir’s conduct had been criminal.
He said Lord Dyson’s ‘utterly damning’ report showed Bashir won fame and fortune by ‘forgery and callously scaring a mentally vulnerable woman… something with more than a whiff of criminality about it’.
He added: ‘The BBC then covered this up, blackballing whistleblowers and ensuring its own reporters didn’t report on Bashir.’
Scotland Yard was yesterday said to be still ‘assessing’ the Dyson report after Earl Spencer urged Metropolitan Police Commissioner Cressida Dick to launch a criminal probe.