Mirror editor attacks Naomi Campbell's "offensive" race claim

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The Independent Online

Mirror editor Piers Morgan today attacked as "disgusting and offensive" Naomi Campbell's attempt to bring the issue of racism into her privacy case.

Mr Morgan clashed at the High Court with the supermodel's QC, Andrew Caldecott, over a reference to her in an article by journalist Sue Carroll as being like a "chocolate soldier".

The newspaper says that this referred to Miss Campbell's campaigning for the animal charity, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) from which, it alleges, she was sacked after wearing a mink at a Milan fashion show.

It claimed that the phrase meant someone who wilted in the heat and was ineffective.

But the 31–year–old model has called it a deliberately racist remark aimed at everything she campaigned for and said she left PETA of her own accord.

Mr Morgan: "Sue Carroll shared my view that Naomi Campbell's behaviour was pretty outrageous for someone who had put her life so voraciously in the public domain.

"Her attempt to say Sue Carroll was a racist is incredibly offensive to my newspaper.

"We have been at the forefront of working with, for example, the parents of Stephen Lawrence and Damilola Taylor, in combating racism in this country.

"We are well reputed for that.

"And I find her attempt to bring the race card into this case is quite disgusting."

He said that most people were aware of the meaning of the phrase.

Desmond Browne QC, for MGN Ltd, has said it originated in Shaw's Arms and the Man and was used as a derogatory term in the Australian forces for latecomers at Gallipoli.

But today, Mr Morgan said he preferred the opinion expressed yesterday by the judge, Mr Justice Morland, that it stemmed from the Boer War.

The judge, who served with the Grenadier Guards, had a military background, said Mr Morgan.

Mr Caldecott asked if the editor – who he described as "the sensitive Mr Morgan of The Mirror" – would call a black lady, who he did not think a very good champion of some cause, a chocolate soldier to her face in modern conditions.

Mr Morgan: "Why shouldn't I? I have absolutely no problem in using a perfectly common normal phrase which has not got a racist undertone to it at all.

"Are you saying that the term chocolate is racist? When I have a cup of hot chocolate at night am I being racist? This is ridiculous."

Mr Caldecott persisted: "Can you understand that a black lady would object to being a chocolate soldier or not?"

Mr Morgan: "I understand she has tried to use this to get sympathy for herself and brand The Mirror racist."

Mr Caldecott: "Why?"

Mr Morgan: "Because I would argue she has a pretty weak case and anything she can bring in which will lead to sympathy will help her case."

Miss Campbell left the country last night so was not in court for the third day of her groundbreaking action.

She is claiming damages for breach of confidence and/or unlawful invasion of privacy after the newspaper published a photograph of her leaving a Narcotics Anonymous meeting in Chelsea's King's Road a year ago.

It said she had been receiving regular counselling in a "courageous bid to beat her addiction to drink and drugs" – although it has now been made clear that the model never had a drink problem.

The newspaper claims that she was not entitled to the same privacy "as the normal man or woman in the street" who did not use the media to put forward a commercial image of themselves or talk about very intimate areas of their lives.

Mr Morgan said Miss Campbell had "done some very good work in relation to race issues".

He said he had known columnist Sue Carroll for more than 12 years.

Asked by Mr Browne whether he had ever encountered any racist behaviour or comment on her part over that time Mr Morgan answered: "Absolutely none – in fact quite the opposite."

Earlier, Mr Morgan said that he thought that once "the balloon had been popped about her drug addiction", it would be a good idea if Miss Campbell talked about it "honestly and frankly".

"Certainly a better idea than having her in the witness box for two days lying."

He added: "In my experience, almost every celebrity who attends Narcotics Anonymous or Alcoholics Anonymous has then talked quite openly, honestly, frankly, and indeed inspiringly, about their experiences."

Called to give evidence, Ms Carroll was asked by Mr Browne if it was true that she was being "deliberately racist and intentionally insulting" by her use of the phrase chocolate soldier.

She replied: "Absolutely not."

Nor was she reckless: "When you write a column you do attempt to be politically correct."

Cross–examined by Mr Caldecott, she said that the "chocolate soldier" phrase was commonplace like "chocolate teapot or fireguard" and she used it on the basis that Miss Campbell was not very effective.

Ms Carroll added: "I've said it in front of my Jamaican sister–in–law."

She added: "If it doesn't offend my family who are mixed–race then it should not affect Miss Campbell.

"I would not in a million years offend anybody from Naomi Campbell's background or colour because of my own family situation – I would be hammered."