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Prince William issues rare statement addressing BBC's investigation of Princess Diana interview

Prince William said he "tentatively" welcomes the BBC's new investigation into its controversial 1995 interview with his late mother, Princess Diana

The BBC announced last week it is conducting a "robust and independent investigation" into an allegation that Martin Bashir, the reporter who conducted Princess Diana's 1995 bombshell  "Panorama" interview, asked a graphic designer to create fake bank statements to coerce the royal into talking on camera. 

"The independent investigation is a step in the right direction," said the Duke of Cambridge in a statement, provided to USA TODAY by Kensington Palace. "It should help establish the truth behind the actions that led to the Panorama interview and subsequent decisions taken by those in the BBC at the time."

The BBC said Wednesday its board of directors had approved the appointment of John Dyson, a retired Supreme Court judge, to lead an independent investigation into the circumstances around a controversial TV interview. Dyson is is “an eminent and highly respected figure who will lead a thorough process,” the broadcaster said. 

Diana’s brother, Charles Spencer, made renewed claims this month that Bashir used false claims to convince the late royal to agree to the interview.

Princess Diana is pictured being interviewed interviewed by the BBC's Martin Bashir in the current affairs program "Panorama" on Nov. 20, 1995. She discussed with apparent candor her life and problems with her husband, Prince Charles, the royal family and the press.

British station ITV also this month aired a documentary, "The Diana Interview: Revenge of a Princess," featuring interviews that claimed Bashir asked graphic designer Matt Wiessler to create mock bank statements that seemingly proved royal employees were getting paid to spy on Diana. This allegedly persuaded her to sit for the now-famous interview, which tackled rumors about her marriage and relationship with the media. 

“The BBC is taking this very seriously and we want to get to the truth," BBC Director General Tim Davie said in a statement to USA TODAY.

The BBC investigated the Diana "Panorama" interview after it aired and cleared Bashir, 57, of wrongdoing in 1996. A report published earlier this month in The Sunday Times cited 1996 internal BBC documents obtained through the Freedom of Information Act that concluded Bashir was "an honest man" and blamed Wiessler for the episode. 

Weissler maintains he did not know what the fake statements would be used for until after the interview aired, and he is outraged that the blame was placed on him. 

"It's a bit like blaming the pen for writing a nasty letter," he said in an interview on BBC Radio 4. "I couldn't believe it when I saw that FOI release. I was absolutely gobsmacked that in a board of governor meeting that was there to look into what Martin had done, I was made the scapegoat.

Previously:BBC names ex-judge to lead investigation into controversial 1995 Princess Diana interview

"I don't know how you can plausibly tell a story that a graphic designer is to blame for using copied documents as forgery, and I've been living with this for 25 years. And when I saw this decree that went out... I was pretty angry a couple of weeks ago when I saw that, because I thought it was utterly unfair."

Bashir, who has been religion editor for the BBC since 2017, was unavailable for comment on the "Panorama" investigation as he is "signed off work by his doctors" and is "currently recovering from quadruple heart bypass surgery and has significant complications from having contracted COVID-19 earlier in the year," according to the BBC press office. 

In the "Panorama" interview, Diana spoke candidly from Kensington Palace about her failed marriage to Prince Charles, confirmed rumors of his infidelity with his eventual second wife Camilla Parker Bowles ("Well, there were three of us in the marriage, so it was a bit crowded"), and confirmed her own five-year affair with a former lover, James Hewitt.

She also spoke openly about her past struggles with depression and bulimia, and expressed frustrations with the palace and the media.

Contributing: Maria Puente, USA TODAY, and the Associated Press

More:BBC investigating claim that reporter coerced Princess Diana into 1995 bombshell interview