Ofcom clears Piers Morgan over Meghan Markle comments following record number of complaints

Broadcasting watchdog has said Morgan is ‘entitled to say he disbelieved the Duke and Duchess of Sussex’

Annabel Nugent
Wednesday 01 September 2021 11:05
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‘I still don’t believe Meghan Markle’, Piers Morgan says

ITV has been cleared by Ofcom over Piers Morgan’s comments about Meghan Markle on Good Morning Britain.

The presenter attracted widespread criticism in March for remarks he made following Meghan and Prince Harry’s interview with Oprah Winfrey.

Morgan said he “didn’t believe a word” the duchess said about struggling with suicidal thoughts and disputed her account of allegedly experiencing racism during her time as a senior royal.

His on-air outburst prompted a record number of 57,121 Ofcom complaints – the highest number in the TV regulator’s history – and led to his exit from GMB.

But Ofcom ruled on Wednesday that Morgan’s behaviour did not break its broadcasting code.

A statement from Ofcom said: “While we acknowledged that Mr Morgan’s questions about the nature of racism had the potential to be highly offensive to some viewers, the conversations about race and racism in the programme provided open debate on the issues raised by the interview.”

It added that the programme “allowed for an important discussion to be had on the nature and impact of racism”.

Ofcom argued that ITV had “clearly anticipated that racial issues would be discussed at length as part of the coverage of the interview and had taken steps to ensure context could be provided during the discussions”.

The statement concluded: “Despite strong opinions expressed during the programme, in Ofcom’s view any potential offence was justified by the context and the comments and discussions about race and racism were not in breach of rule 2.3 of the code.”

Rule 2.3 dictates that broadcasters “must ensure that material which may cause offence is justified by the context” and that “appropriate information should also be broadcast where it would assist in avoiding or minimising context”.

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The broadcaster concluded that Meghan and Prince Harry’s Oprah interview “contained serious allegations and it was legitimate for this programme to discuss and scrutinises those claims including their veracity”.

Responding to news of Ofcom’s ruling, Morgan wrote on Twitter: “BREAKING: @Ofcom rejects all complaints against me over Meghan Markle furore that led to my exit from @GMB.

“Verdict says I was entitled to disbelieve her and Prince Harry and to restrict my right to do so would be a ‘chilling restriction on freedom of expression.’”

Piers Morgan pictured in 2017

The former GMB presenter praised the decision as a “resounding victory for free speech and a resounding defeat for Princess Pinocchios” before asking, “Do I get my job back?”

At the time of the incident, following backlash from viewers, Morgan elaborated on his comments, stating that he wanted to “clarify his position on mental health” and said that it is “not for me to question whether she was feeling suicidal”.

He claimed his “disbelief” was over her allegations that “she went to a senior member of the royal household, told them she was suicidal and was told she could not have any help because it would be a bad look for the family”.

However, the 56-year-old has since continued to refer to the duchess as “Princess Pinocchio” and says he “still” does not believe her.

In an interview following his departure from GMB, Morgan repeated his comments about Meghan, stating: “If I have to fall on my sword for expressing an honestly-held opinion about Meghan Markle and that diatribe of bilge that she came out with in that interview, so be it.”

Mental health charity Mind shared a statement on Twitter in response to Morgan’s on-air comments, writing: “We were disappointed and concerned to see Piers Morgan’s comments on not believing Meghan’s experiences about suicidal thoughts today.

The charity wrote that “it’s vital that when people reach out for support or share their experiences of ill mental health that they are treated with dignity, respect and empathy”.

If you are experiencing feelings of distress and isolation, or are struggling to cope, The Samaritans offers support; you can speak to someone for free over the phone, in confidence, on 116 123 (UK and ROI), email jo@samaritans.org, or visit the Samaritans website to find details of your nearest branch.

If you are based in the USA, and you or someone you know needs mental health assistance right now, call National Suicide Prevention Helpline on 1-800-273-TALK (8255). The Helpline is a free, confidential crisis hotline that is available to everyone 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

If you are in another country, you can go to www.befrienders.org to find a helpline near you.

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