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The man who would do anything for a scoop. L ast week, the BBC took a second humiliating pummelling over their shamed religious affairs correspondent, Martin Bashir.
For almost four hours, three past and present director generals were grilled by a well-briefed committee of MPs. Notable by their absence from the parliamentary stocks were the two BBC executives who gave Bashir yet a third chance by rehiring him as religious affairs correspondent in the then head of news and current affairs James Harding and the head of newsgathering Jonathan Munro. Then, inhis reation from the US cable channel MSNBC for saying on air that the former Republican vice-presidential nominee Sarah Palin deserved the same treatment that slaves sometimes got from their masters: defecating into their open mouths.
But respected? Those s were also there in the unprecedented access Bashir persuaded Michael Jackson to grant him for his stunning documentary, Living with Michael Jackson. Why not? This is extraordinary. The ITV crew who worked with Bashir seemed to have noticed nothing outwardly manipulative during filming.
The final sequence of the Jackson documentary showed Bashir confronting him about his habit of sleeping in the same room, and sometimes in the same bed, as young boys. Because your interaction with them is just so natural, so loving, so caring. Everyone that comes into contact with you knows that. Then again, Bashir was known to his Tonight colleagues as something of a loner.
We had none of those details. As with Diana, many of the big talk show hosts like Larry King had been trying to get to Jackson. And as with Diana, it was Martin Bashir who got there first. He did it by playing the Diana card — and persistence. When Bashir pulled out a crumpled letter ed by Diana thanking him for his interview, it cut no ice with Borkowski.
Borkowski says:. It was perfectly clear what Bashir was about: reheating the suspicion over the Chandler case. He must have thought I was born yesterday.
Are you kidding? Jackson was in London, so Geller fixed up a meeting between him and Bashir at the Renaissance hotel.
This will not end well. The bonding had begun. I knew I had to confront Jackson about what I thought was an obsession with children. Kids want to be loved, they want to be touched, they want to be held. Following a four-month trial in in Santa Barbara, he was acquitted on all charges.
The evidence that Jackson skilfully groomed young boys, masturbated them, and deflected suspicion from their families by showering them with expensive gifts, is compelling, although never quite clinching.
For example, according to Geller, after putting Jackson under hypnosis, he asked him why had he paid off the Chandler family? Journalists obviously have no statutory right to use subterfuge in the way the police can; on the other hand, journalistic subterfuge can certainly be justified when it operates in the public interest.
With Bashir, however, one gets the impression he is not remotely interested in weighing the balance. Yet Harding and Munro seem entirely incurious about this and MacQuarrie shows no curiosity either about why they appear to have been incurious.
This is puzzling. Had Munro and Harding clicked on Google, they would have discovered that Bashir had once again being accused of forgery. Now, apparently, Jackson was happy to devolve discretion for how the material was used to Bashir. How credible could this volte-face be? When Branca heard Jackson had granted Bashir unprecedented filming access and been doing in-depth interviews, he fired off a letter to Bashir reminding him of the agreement Bashir had allegedly already ed. What are you talking about? Michael and I sat down and discussed it and Michael took out the agreement and tore it to bits!
You deal with me. And I am telling you that we have no agreement that restricts you. You can do whatever you want with the film, I trust you. You can trust me. The judge agreed, so Bashir did not respond. Quite the reverse. Harding assured MacQuarrie that Munro had made concerted efforts to conduct due diligence on Bashir. If so, how Jackson must have kicked himself.
I agreed that we would make an honest film about his life. American networks were much hotter on such protocols than Britain at that time. TheTV watchdog, the Broadcasting Standards Commission, had found Bashir had mislead the father of a teenage maths prodigy into giving an interview. As with Jackson, Yusof had been convinced by Bashir that his sympathies lay with him. And on that basis, just like Jackson, Yusof had agreed to do an interview, only to end up, again like Jackson, in a confrontation — this time in a studio face-to-face by his runaway daughter.
He was never disciplined there either. Two nine-year-olds, Karen Hadaway and Nicola Fellows, had been sexually assaulted and their bodies found in woods near their homes. A local criminal was acquitted of their murders in The clothes had been returned to her by the Police.
Could Michelle lend the clothes to him, Bashir asked? As Michelle handed them over to Bashir, bloodstains still visible through the police evidence bag, Bashir would have known just how precious they were to her. Yet Bashir is alleged to have never returned them because he lost them. Bashir was now competing directly with former Panorama colleagues who complained that he was spreading malicious falsehoods about them in his attempts to persuade interviewees to speak exclusively to him, rather than to Panorama.
These falsehoods were way beyond sharp-elbowed competition. A few months later, both Tonight and Panorama were competing over the story about the nail bomber David Copeland whose bombs killed three people and left four survivors limbless. Panorama was astonished to get a furious call from Scotland Yard accusing them of withholding evidence of a neo-Nazi conspiracy extending beyond Copeland.
There was no truth in either allegation. Several other high profile Bashir interviewees have recently come forward with similar stories of deception and manipulation. If the BBC wants to avoid another calamity, it should introduce a formal requirement to screen the media history of job candidates, including their social media. It is regrettable that Ken MacQuarrie has given the BBC a pass on this most serious of failings and it undermines the credit the BBC can otherwise claim for coming clean over the entire sorry Bashir business, albeit 25 years too late.
Artillery Row. By John Ware. The ITV crew who worked with Bashir seemed to have noticed nothing outwardly manipulative during filming The final sequence of the Jackson documentary showed Bashir confronting him about his habit of sleeping in the same room, and sometimes in the same bed, as young boys. Borkowski says: It was perfectly clear what Bashir was about: reheating the suspicion over the Chandler case. Journalistic subterfuge can certainly be justified when it operates in the public interest The evidence that Jackson skilfully groomed young boys, masturbated them, and deflected suspicion from their families by showering them with expensive gifts, is compelling, although never quite clinching.
Enjoying The Critic online? What to read next. Jeremy Black. Robin Aitken and. Nigel Jones.Bbc nobody wants it
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