Crown star suggests Martin Bashir was a victim of racism at BBC

Crown star suggests Martin Bashir was a victim of racism at BBC

11/05/2022

Crown star Prasanna Puwanarajah suggests rogue TV reporter Martin Bashir who deceived Princess Diana was a victim of racism at BBC

  • Bashir used fake bank statements to get Diana for his 1995 Panorama interview  
  • But Mr Puwanarajah suggested racial discrimination played a role in the saga  
  • ‘There was a wariness of outsiders in BBC that is part of what happened,’ he said
  • The encounter between Bashir and Diana will be shown in season 5 of The Crown

The actor who plays Martin Bashir in The Crown last night suggested that the disgraced BBC reporter who deceived Princess Diana was a victim of racism.

Prasanna Puwanarajah claimed that ‘a wariness of outsiders in the BBC’ played a role in one of the biggest scandals to rock the Corporation, suggesting that a factor in why Bashir’s deception was detected was the journalist’s ethnicity.

His comments are likely to reignite the controversy surrounding the flagship Netflix series and follows a broadside by former Prime Minister John Major that the show is ‘fiction paraded as fact’.

Rogue reporter Bashir used fake bank statements to gain access to Diana before telling her a litany of lies and smears to land his 1995 Panorama interview.

Lord Dyson, a former Supreme Court judge, last year condemned his ‘deceitful behaviour’ and detailed how the BBC launched an internal investigation after whistleblowers raised their concerns about the fake bank statements.

Prasanna Puwanarajah (pictured) claimed that ‘a wariness of outsiders in the BBC’ played a role in one of the biggest scandals to rock the Corporation, suggesting that a factor in why Bashir’s deception was detected was the journalist’s ethnicity

The Corporation’s probe was described by the former judge as ‘woefully ineffective’ and the extent of Bashir’s deceit did not emerge until two years ago. Lord Dyson’s damning report makes no mention of racism but, speaking to The Observer, Mr Puwanarajah suggested racial discrimination had played a role in the saga.

‘There was a wariness of outsiders in the BBC that is part of what happened,’ he said. ‘Bashir’s ambitious actions are part of a documented lineage of ethical malpractice in journalism, but the subterfuge was detected in his case. Despite apparent progressive strides, problems around race persist in our institutions.’

Matt Wiessler, a former BBC graphic designer who first blew the whistle on Bashir – and was then made a scapegoat by the Corporation’s bosses – last night criticised the actor’s remarks, saying: ‘I don’t agree with any of that.

‘I don’t agree that race played any part in the detection. The reason Bashir’s deception was detected is because I blew the whistle.’

Mr Wiessler revealed he spent around two hours talking to Mr Puwanarajah before he filmed his scenes for The Crown and suggested Bashir’s background as the son of Muslim parents from Pakistan could explain his determination to succeed at the ‘elitist’ BBC.

Matt Wiessler, a former BBC graphic designer who first blew the whistle on Bashir – and was then made a scapegoat by the Corporation’s bosses – last night criticised the actor’s remarks, saying: ‘I don’t agree with any of that

The encounter between Bashir and Diana will be shown across two episodes of the upcoming fifth season of The Crown, which starts on Wednesday.

The show’s creator and screenwriter Peter Morgan decided to depict the interview – despite Prince William last year urging the BBC and its rivals not to screen it again, saying it ‘was a major contribution to making my parents’ relationship worse’.

Mr Puwanarajah defended the decision and said he and Elizabeth Debicki, who plays Diana, worked with vocal and movement coaches to portray the interview as accurately as possible.

‘The whole programme is now part of the fabric of our collective knowledge, our history, and not to do it properly would have been to bump the audience out of an important dramatic moment,’ he said.

‘So in rehearsal we tried to find out how these two people, Diana and Bashir, decided they needed each other for the next step of their lives. We had to work out how to dramatise it, but we took no moral position. It was a complicated set of circumstances but at the heart of it is a well-documented act of deceit. Although there is also much we will never know for sure, which is quite haunting.’

He revealed Morgan was on the film set ‘for much of the filming of Bashir’s screen encounter with Diana’. He denied the screenwriter is a ‘sensationalist’, describing him as ‘almost an anthropologist’.

The encounter between Bashir and Diana will be shown across two episodes of the upcoming fifth season of The Crown, which starts on Wednesday

But Royal biographer Sally Bedell Smith last night branded The Crown’s makers ‘deranged’ for recreating the Panorama interview.

‘Recreating this interview was completely unjustified and indefensible, particularly as the BBC has pledged to Prince William that they will never show it again,’ she said. ‘What The Crown is doing is just showing it in a different form.

‘Martin Bashir inflicted the worst kind of deception imaginable to land this interview. The scandal and anger over what he did has nothing to do with his race or anything else, and everything to do with his lack of ethics and morals.’

Ingrid Seward, editor-in-chief of Majesty magazine, said: ‘I refute the suggestion that what Bashir did to Diana was what other reporters were up to at that time.

‘The Crown did not need to recreate the interview. There were lots of other ways they could have done it. But recreating it in this way is unnecessary and unkind to Princes William and Harry.’

Mr Puwanarajah also dismissed calls for Netflix to add an onscreen disclaimer making clear that the Royal drama’s explosive storylines are fiction rather than historical fact, saying: ‘People get that it is a dramatisation.’

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