Members of the Jackson family have called for an investigation into journalist Martin Bashir’s treatment of Michael Jackson during the making of a headline grabbing ITV programme back in 2003. This follows the recent investigation into and subsequent Dyson Report on Bashir’s 1995 interview with Princess Diana on the BBC’s ‘Panorama’ programme, which found that he had used deceitful methods in order to secure that particular royal exclusive. Taj Jackson has said that Bashir’s “manipulated footage and unethical journalism is one of the main reasons my uncle Michael is not here today … my family deserves an investigation and apology too”.
Meanwhile brother of Michael, Tito, told the Mirror: “Bashir created a fake narrative about my brother, which becomes crystal clear when you view the outtakes Bashir kept secret. He used Michael’s trust and friendship with Diana to get the interview, manipulated Michael throughout the interview, then deceptively edited the footage”. Behind the scenes footage from the Jackson programme at the time showed that Bashir had praised the musician about certain things during filming that he then overtly criticised in the final edit of the show.
The programme put the spotlight back on Jackson’s relationships with children, leading to an investigation by the Santa Barbara district attorney. That resulted in allegations that the musician had molested a child who had been seen in the Bashir programme, which in turn led to criminal charges and the big 2005 child abuse trial.
Although Jackson was acquitted of all charges at the end of that trial, Taj Jackson argues that the court case “broke” his uncle. Meanwhile Bashir pursued a successful TV career in the US, in part based on the hype surrounding his Jackson documentary. “Shame on those who provided cover for Bashir [and] shame on those who rewarded him”, Taj added.
Michael Jackson himself made an official complaint to TV watchdog ITC after the programme aired, saying: “Martin Bashir persuaded me to trust him, that his would be an honest and fair portrayal of my life, and told me he was ‘the man that turned Diana’s life around'”. “Today I feel more betrayed than perhaps ever before”, he added, “that someone, who had got to know my children, my staff and me, whom I let into my heart and told the truth, could then sacrifice the trust I placed in him and produce this terrible and unfair programme. Everyone who knows me will know the truth, which is that my children come first in my life and that I would never harm any child”.
Bashir was introduced to Michael by his friend Uri Geller, who now says that he was convinced to set up an initial meeting after the journalist showed him a handwritten letter from Princess Diana. This letter was presented as evidence in Lord Dyson’s investigation, and in it she wrote that she had “no regrets” about speaking to Bashir. “What convinced me to introduce him to Michael was a letter he pulled out of his pocket”, Geller told the Mirror. “It was folded two or three times and there was a logo on it. He said it was from Princess Diana, writing to him about how happy she was with the interview. I had felt unease, but it was the Diana letter that won my feelings over. He was a super-smooth operator. I regret that terrible introduction. It was the beginning of, I believe, Michael’s spiral downwards”.
ITV has not yet commented on calls for an investigation into the Michael Jackson interview. The Jackson family meanwhile, have reportedly threatened legal action.