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UK News

Don't make Bashir a scapegoat, says former chaplain to the Queen

by Donna Birrell

A former chaplain to the Queen says Martin Bashir is being made a scapegoat for actions he took to secure an interview with Princess Diana.

 An independent investigation's concluded the former Religion Editor lied to persuade her to speak to him in 1995. 

Rev Dr Gavin Ashenden told Premier he believes the Princess would have given an interview to another journalist if it hadn't been Mr Bashir:

"What worries me about this is the way in which Martin Bashir has become a public scapegoat. It's often the sign that there's a form of group psychosis taking place and one person is carrying the sins of the community. Obviously, he shouldn't have done it, it was bad journalistic behaviour. But it's being treated as though on a scale of criminality it's at about nine out of 10. Whereas the fact is that all journalists bend the rules to get interviews."

Dr Ashenden, who resigned as honorary chaplain to the Queen in 2017, says if Martin Bashir hadn't secured the interview, it would have been somebody else:

"It appears Diana was going to give an interview anyway. She was looking to use a news outlet to continue her civil war against Charles, who had given an interview with Dimbleby. I think it's really quite important that we should not allow this civil psychological war to run down the generations, and to have the rest of us drawn in as supportive troops on one side or the other. And in particular, using someone like Martin Bashir as a scapegoat for it. Witch Hunts are always bad. And this appears to me to be taking the form of a public witch hunt. I think Martin Bashir is paying far too heavy a price for an improper initiative that he took when he got caught up in the civil wars between Charles and Diana."

Martin Bashir stepped down from his role as the BBC's Religion Editor earlier in May.

Former President of the Methodist Conference, Lord Griffiths told Premier he was totally stunned that the corporation had employed Mr Bashir as its Religion Editor despite evidently knowing about the events of the past:

"I don't think that necessarily it throws a bad light on religion. But it will throw a bad light on the BBC for giving him a new contract when it's so egregiously broken the terms and the integrity implied by the programme that he did all those years ago. They had knowledge of it and he was brought back into a post at the BBC - and of all things - their religion post, it just makes it all seem even more astonishing. The collusion, the cover-up, the self-deceit, the harm that's been done to the family of Princess Diana.

"I'm knocked off my feet by it all. I'm totally committed to the BBC and this therefore, has been well beyond words, first of all, the act itself, and then the cover-up by the BBC, all of it just leaves me bewildered to be quite honest."

Lord Griffiths says the BBC will survive, although it must learn from its failings:

"The BBC is bigger than even a major scandal of this kind. In terms of public service broadcasting and the future of our media, in this country, the BBC is an essential part of it. I don't think this invalidates the role of the BBC. But it's a pretty grave shock to their system."

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