Tony Hall, former director of the BBC, has stepped down from his post as chairman of London’s National Gallery in the fallout over Martin Bashir’s interview with Princess Diana in 1995.
Hall led an internal investigation in 1996 into Bashir’s methods for securing the interview with Diana, then the Princess of Wales. The investigation cleared Bashir of ethical wrongdoing, but a second inquiry concluded on Thursday that the initial one had covered up Bashir’s “deceitful behavior.”
“I have always had a strong sense of public service and it is clear my continuing in the role would be a distraction to an institution I care deeply about,” Hall said in a statement, adding that he was “very sorry for the events of 25 years ago.”
Critics have lambasted Bashir’s use of fake bank statements to suggest to Diana that she was under surveillance from the monarchy, winning her trust in the process. In the subsequent interview a visibly emotional Diana detailed the breakdown of her marriage to Prince Charles. With rare honesty, she also spoke about her struggle with an eating disorder and her unhappy life amid the royal family. Following the interview, Queen Elizabeth II requested that the two divorce. Diana died two years later in a car accident.
The new inquiry was launched last year following renewed scrutiny into the tactics used to gain such unprecedented access to the Princess. Investigators found that Hall had led a “woefully ineffective” probe into the circumstances of the interview in 1996. Citing poor health, Bashir stepped down from his position as the BBC’s religion editor last week.
In a video statement, Prince William blasted the BBC for contributing to his mother’s mental deterioration and the breakdown of his parents’ marriage.
Culture secretary Oliver Dowden said the scandal illustrated the corporation’s “failures” to embody up to the values it espoused. He added that the BBC must “improve its culture” and champion “accuracy, impartiality, and diversity of opinion.”
John Kingman, deputy chair of the National Gallery’s board of trustees, said in a statement that “the gallery is extremely sorry to lose him, but of course we entirely understand and respect his decision.” He will temporarily assume the position of board chair at the museum.