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Friday, April 16, 2021

Explained: Why talk show host Piers Morgan has quit after comments on Meghan Markle

Piers Morgan, who has long been critical of Markle, had sharpened his broadsides against her and Prince Harry after they accused the British royal family of racism and ill-treatment in an interview with Oprah Winfrey.

By: Explained Desk | New Delhi |
Updated: March 16, 2021 12:49:36 pm
Piers Morgan, Piers Morgan Good Morning Britain, Piers Morgan Meghan Markle, Meghan Markle Harry interview, Oprah interview, Indian ExpressPiers Morgan. (Reuters Photo: Mario Anzuoni)

Controversial talk show host Piers Morgan, who had come under fire for his relentless criticism of Meghan Markle, left his high-profile slot on the show Good Morning Britain on Tuesday.

Morgan, who has long been critical of Markle, had sharpened his broadsides against her and Prince Harry after the two accused the British royal family of racism and ill-treatment in their recent explosive interview with celebrity talk show host Oprah Winfrey.

In a brief statement, the broadcaster ITV confirmed his departure. “Following discussions with ITV, Piers Morgan has decided now is the time to leave Good Morning Britain. ITV has accepted this decision and has nothing further to add,” it said.

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Piers Morgan’s tirade against Meghan Markle

In the interview with Oprah, Markle–who holds the title Duchess of Sussex–had said her mental health had begun to deteriorate coinciding with her first pregnancy, subject to scrutiny both inside and outside the Palace. She also said her request to palace officials for help when she had suicidal thoughts had been rejected.

On his Good Morning Britain show on Monday, Morgan rubbished Markle’s claims, saying he “didn’t believe a word” the Duchess told Oprah.

Morgan said, “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.”

He went on, “The fact that she’s fired up this onslaught against our Royal Family I think is contemptible.” Later the same day, Morgan referred to Markle as the “Pinocchio Princess” in a tweet.

A day later, Morgan had an on-air clash with weather presenter Alex Beresford. Morgan appeared to lose his temper after Beresford accused him of “continuing to trash” Markle, and stormed off the set, but returned within 10 minutes.

On Tuesday’s show, Morgan acknowledged the backlash to his comments from the day before, but continued to defend his position, saying, “I still have serious concerns about the veracity of a lot of what Markle said”, although admitting that it was not for him “to question if she felt suicidal”.

“My real concern was a disbelief frankly… that she went to a senior member of the Royal household and told them she was suicidal and was told she could not have any help because it would be a bad look for the family,” Morgan said on the show.

Anger against Morgan

The comments invited a swift public backlash, with the UK’s media regulator saying it had received over 41,000 complaints against Morgan by Tuesday afternoon.

According to the BBC, the only occasion in the media regulator’s 17-year history when it received a greater number of complaints (44,500 over several days) was during the racism row involving Jade Goody and Indian actor Shilpa Shetty on the show ‘Celebrity Big Brother’ in 2007.

Critics, including mental health advocates, slammed Morgan’s comments. Carolyn McCall, the chief executive of ITV, came out in Markle’s support, saying she believed her “completely” while emphasising that her channel took mental health seriously.

ITV has said that Morgan’s departure will take effect immediately, but has so far not confirmed who will replace him.

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Morgan, 55, had been with ITV for six years, where he was known as a tough interviewer, having subjected government officials, celebrities and even members of the royal family to his inquisitorial style of questioning. He had previously appeared as a judge on the reality shows ‘America’s Got Talent’ and ‘Britain’s Got Talent’, and had also been on the US game show ‘Celebrity Apprentice’, hosted by former President Donald Trump.

Despite the criticism, though, Morgan appeared defiant on Wednesday. He said in a tweet, “On Monday, I said I didn’t believe Meghan Markle in her Oprah interview. I’ve had time to reflect on this opinion, and I still don’t. If you did, OK. Freedom of speech is a hill I’m happy to die on. Thanks for all the love, and hate. I’s off to spend more time with my opinions.”

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