CNN anchor Jake Tapper poked a transatlantic hornet’s nest when he said it was “insanity” that UK broadcast regulator Ofcom was looking into a recent episode of ITV’s “Good Morning Britain,” where presenter Piers Morgan generated a storm of complaints after making controversial comments about Meghan Markle and her recently disclosed struggles with mental health.
“This is what happens when you live in a country where there is no First amendment. Insanity,” Mr Tapper wrote on Twitter on Tuesday. “Governments should have no role in policing news broadcasts.”
“You can tweet Piers what you think of his comments, that’s not what this is about,” he added.
In addition to being factually off the mark—Ofcom is technically separate from the government, and Britons have free speech rights—the comments inspired a swift backlash on both sides of the pond.
“No Jake, unlike in your country, we have actual standards for broadcasters, and consequences for those that fail to meet them,” wrote user, @tom_read.
“Not insanity,” added Channel 4’s Krishnan Guru-Murthy. “A democratic choice to have broadcast media regulated with a duty to be fair and duly impartial. It stops TV from taking sides to support or oppose things the way you do in America and upholds a code of standards.”
Some took issue with different parts of the tweet from Mr Tapper. Political journalist Josh Marshall questioned how strict rules really are for the British press, given the long history of salacious press coverage, which Meghan and Prince Harry criticised in their interview over the weekend with Oprah Winfrey.
“Questions of principle aside, the idea that UK upholds ‘standards’ in any meaningful sense is hilarious since its press is notoriously corrupt and awash in criminality,” Mr Marshall wrote.
Others noted that the US has its own broadcast rules, despite broad First Amendment protections.
“You might want to brush up on what the First Amendment protects, and does not,” wrote journalism professor Christian Christensen. “We had the Fairness Doctrine in the US for 40 years, overseen by the FCC, while also having the First Amendment. A license to broadcast over public airwaves is a privilege, not a right.”
Eventually, Mr Tapper noticed the fire in his replies, and compared British response to his comments to the storming of the Capitol, before thanking British people for their replies—and the BBC.
On Tuesday, Ofcom, which regulates broadcasters to prevent bias and inaccuracy, announced it would investigate a Monday episode of “Good Morning Britain” after it got more than 40,000 complaints from the public.
During the episode, presenter Piers Morgan said he doubted some of what Meghan Markle told Oprah during her interview about being rebuffed when she went to the royal family about her suicidal thoughts.
“Who did you go to? What did they say to you? I’m sorry, I don’t believe a word she said, Meghan Markle. I wouldn’t believe it if she read me a weather report,” Mr Morgan said during the episode under review.
The next day, his comments provoked one of his colleagues to call him “diabolical,” and Mr Morgan walked off the set in anger, though later returned and softened his stance on the Duchess.
“When we talked about this yesterday, I said, as an all encompassing thing, I don’t believe what Meghan Markle is saying generally in this interview and I still have serious concerns about the veracity of a lot of what she said,” he said. “But let me just state for the record on my position on mental illness and on suicide. These are clearly extremely serious things and should be taken extremely seriously and if someone is feeling that way they should get the treatment and the help they need every time. And if they belong to an institution like the Royal family and they go and seek that help they should absolutely be given it.”
CNN and ITV have not responded to a request for comment fromThe Independent on behalf of their respective networks and presenters.
On a Tuesday call with reporters, ITV chief executive Carolyn McCall said she completely believed Meghan, according toVariety.
“I completely believe what she said, that the most important thing with mental health that ITV does and is totally committed to, is that we support, we get people to speak up, we listen, we say everyone has to listen and everyone has to believe because that’s how you get people to speak up,” she said. “So we are very committed to that.”
During an emotional interview on Sunday with Oprah, Meghan said the pressures of being a member of the royal family and feeling unsupported took a serious toll on her mental health, and that she had “methodical” thoughts about taking her own life, but senior officials told her seeking help would be poor optics. In desperation, she says she turned to a confidante of the late Princess Diana, who had similar struggles.
“Yes, this was very clear and very scary. I did not know who to turn to. One of the people I reached out to, who has been a friend and a confidante, was one of Diana’s best friends. Who else could understand what it is actually like on the inside,” said Meghan.
"The whole family is saddened to learn the full extent of how challenging the last few years have been for Harry and Meghan," Buckingham Palace said in a statement on Tuesday. "Harry, Meghan and Archie will always be much loved family members,” it added.
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