Piers Morgan was today sensationally cleared by Ofcom who backed his right to free speech after he said that he ‘didn’t believe a word’ of what Meghan Markle told Oprah Winfrey and challenged her claims of royal racism and suicidal thoughts live on Good Morning Britain.
The UK’s broadcasting watchdog called attempts to silence him a ‘chilling restriction on freedom of expression’ after the Duchess of Sussex was among an avalanche of people who complained that his questioning of her account was ‘harmful’ and ‘offensive’ to viewers.
Mr Morgan told MailOnline today: ‘This is a resounding victory for free speech and a resounding defeat for Princess Pinocchios’.
Meghan, 40, was among the 57,000 people who went to Ofcom after an orchestrated social media campaign spearheaded by his ‘woke’ critics including several Labour MPs, who accused him of racism and sexism.
Within 48 hours of the March 7 Oprah interview, Mr Morgan was forced to quit GMB after he refused to apologise for his ‘honestly held opinions’, costing ITV around 790,000 viewers and millions more in advertising revenue with the ratings gap between GMB and rival BBC Breakfast still growing. On the day Piers quit, GMB was in the lead.
And Ofcom today backed Mr Morgan’s right to ‘rigorously challenge’ the Duchess’s account of suffering suicidal thoughts and claims she experienced racism at the hands of the Royal Family. Complaints that his views on the programmes on March 8 and March 9 were unsuitable for children and incited hatred and racism were also thrown out.
ITV’s left-leaning former Guardian chief CEO Dame Carolyn McCall is under pressure to explain why she tried to suppress the presenter’s free speech after the Duchess of Sussex complained to her directly and allegedly implored her to censure her critic as they were both ‘women and mothers’.
There was complete vindication for the star, 56, who branded Meghan ‘Princess Pinocchio’, as Ofcom ruled: ‘Mr Morgan was entitled to say he disbelieved the Duke and Duchess of Sussex’s allegations and to hold and express strong views that rigorously challenged their account’.
And in a damning indictment of his former bosses and the 57,000 people who complained, the watchdog found: ‘The restriction of such views would, in our view, be an unwarranted and chilling restriction on freedom of expression both of the broadcaster and the audience’.
Other allegations roundly rejected by Ofcom included that Mr Morgan were not ‘duly impartial’, he had ‘misrepresented facts’ and that he ‘mocked the American accent’.
Reacting to today’s ruling Mr Morgan told MailOnline: ‘I’m delighted that Ofcom has so emphatically supported my right to disbelieve the Duke and Duchess of Sussex’s incendiary claims to Oprah Winfrey, many of which have since been proved to be untrue. This is a resounding victory for free speech and a resounding defeat for Princess Pinocchios.
‘As OFCOM says, to have stifled my right to express strongly held and robustly argued views would have been an ‘unwarranted and chilling restriction on freedom of expression. In light of this decision – do I get my job back?’
He added: ‘I was reliably informed recently that Meghan Markle wrote directly to my ITV boss Dame Carolyn McCall the night before I was forced out, demanding my head on a plate.
‘Apparently, she stressed that she was writing to Dame Carolyn personally because they were both women and mothers – a nauseating playing of the gender and maternity card if ever there was one. What has the world come to when a whiny fork-tongued actress can dictate who presents a morning television news programme?’
Today’s Ofcom report found:
- The Interview between the Duke and Duchess of Sussex and Oprah Winfrey contained serious allegations and it was legitimate for Good Morning Britain to discuss and scrutinise those claims including their veracity;
- Piers Morgan was entitled to say he disbelieved the Duke and Duchess of Sussex’s allegations and to hold and express strong views that rigorously challenged their account;
- The restriction of Mr Morgan’s views would be an unwarranted and chilling restriction on freedom of expression both of ITV and the audience;
Piers Morgan and Good Morning Britain have been cleared of breaching broadcasting standards over a heated debate about Harry and Meghan’s Oprah interview where he said that he didn’t ‘believe a word she says’
More than 57,000 people – including Meghan – contacted the regulator after the former Good Morning Britain presenter said he didn’t believe the Duchess’s claims about experiencing suicidal thoughts when she lived at Kensington Palace
The 56-year-old host then shocked viewers by walking off camera during a heated on-air row with weatherman Alex Beresford, before quitting the programme hours later after refusing to apologise
GMB overtook BBC Breakfast in its ratings war on the day Piers Morgan resigned – and the ratings gap appears to be growing
This morning’s ruling is highly damaging and embarrassing to ITV who face questions over its failure to protect the free speech of its star presenter, who quit 48 hours later after the former Suits actress complained directly to chief executive Carolyn McCall who ordered him to apologise.
The long list of complaints about Piers Morgan and GMB thrown out by Ofcom today
Among the 57,000 complaints, not upheld by Ofcom, were:
- The Programme incited hatred and racism;
- Comments made by Piers Morgan were not duly impartial;
- Susanna Reid did not do enough to challenge Mr Morgan’s views;
- Mr Morgan was only giving his opinion, which is a right under freedom of expression;
- The content misrepresented facts by selectively showing newspaper front pages;
- Mr Morgan mocked the American accent, which is offensive;
- The combative tone of the programme was not suitably scheduled for child viewers
The Duchess of Sussex told tens of millions of people that an unnamed royal was racist towards Archie, said Kate Middleton made her cry in a row over bridesmaids dresses and accused Buckingham Palace of ignoring her pleas for help when she was pregnant and suicidal.
In the hours after the interview aired in the US, which ‘exploded’ Harry and Meghan’s relationship with the Royal Family, Mr Morgan told Good Morning Britain viewers: ‘I’m sorry, I don’t believe a word she says. I wouldn’t believe her if she read me a weather report. The fact she has expressed an onslaught against our Royal Family is contemptible’. And on her claims she told palace officials she ‘didn’t want to be alive anymore’, Piers asked: ‘Who did you go to? What did they say?’.
Mr Morgan also said on the breakfast news show, whose ratings he transformed during his six years as presenter, that Meghan had ‘scripted in’ discussions on mental health and race that could ‘be played against the Royal Family’.
At the time of the interview, The Times reported that palace staff had accused Meghan of being a bully.
Mr Morgan said: ‘Her camp immediately said: “They can’t be believed. Those victims can’t be believed”. And yet we’re supposed to believe everything Meghan Markle now says about her own terrible ordeal of bullying and racism and all the rest of it? You can’t have it both ways. We’re not allowed to believe the apparent victims of her own bullying, but we have to believe everything she says’.
More than 57,000 viewers complained to Ofcom after the presenter’s gave his view on Meghan’s performance. Hours later ITV executive Kevin Lygo is said to have told off Piers before the channel’s chief executive Ms McCall, the former boss of the left-wing Guardian newspaper, sided with the duchess in a public statement and said: ‘I completely believe what she [Meghan] said’.
The following day he then shocked viewers by walking off camera during a heated on-air row with weatherman Alex Beresford who accused him of unfairly ‘trashing’ Meghan. Piers quit the programme hours later.
Pressure on ITV’s ‘leftie luvvie’ £900,000-a-year CEO Carolyn McCall who defended Love Island and Jeremy Kyle – but not Piers Morgan
EasyJet boss Carolyn McCall joined ITV as chief executive on £900,000-a-year in January 2018.
Ms McCall left easyJet after Adam Crozier stepped down at the end of June of 2017.
She is paid an annual salary of around £900,000 – but is eligible for an annual bonus to a maximum of 180 per cent of salary, a long-term incentive plan up to 265 per cent of salary and a generous 15 per cent pension allowance.
The mother-of-three – one of just seven female FTSE 100 bosses – was with easyJet for seven years after previously running the Guardian Media Group.
She worked her way up in the media company after starting as a research planner and became a close ally of former Guardian editor Alan Rusbridger.
The pair built up the paper’s website but were criticised for failing to make it profitable.
Ms McCall has also held a non-executive director post at Burberry, sat on the board of the Department of Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy and is a Trustee at the Royal Academy.
The pair built up the paper’s website but were criticised for failing to make it profitable.
When she was in charge at easyJet, rival Ryanair boss Michael O’Leary dismissed her as ‘some old media luvvie’ due to her lack of airline experience.
Since joining ITV she has also been rocked by a series of scandals, including the cancellation of the Jeremy Kyle Show after a suicide.
She was dragged before MPs last year (pictured) and insisted guests gave ‘informed consent’ and knew the nature of the programme they were appearing on.
When accused of broadcasting a ‘human freak show’, she said: ‘It was adults, they went through a screening and vetting process, they went through quite a lot of hoops before they went on that show.’
Ms McCall also said she would be comfortable with her children appearing on Love Island.
Mr Morgan is understood to have again been ordered to apologise – but he refused and quit instead saying he had the right to tell viewers his ‘honestly held opinions’ and declaring: ‘Freedom of speech is a hill I’m happy to die on’.
Ofcom’s ruling said: ‘Mr Morgan was entitled to say he disbelieved the Duke and Duchess of Sussex’s allegations and to hold and express strong views that rigorously challenged their account. The Code allows for individuals to express strongly held and robustly argued views, including those that are potentially harmful or highly offensive, and for broadcasters to include these in their programming. The restriction of such views would, in our view, be an unwarranted and chilling restriction on freedom of expression both of the broadcaster and the audience.
‘Overall, Ofcom considered that there is a high public interest value in broadcasting open and frank discussions about race and racism, as long as they comply with the Code. As set out above, we also considered that the Interview between the Duke and Duchess of Sussex and Oprah Winfrey contained serious allegations and it was legitimate for this Programme to discuss and scrutinise those claims
‘The restriction of such views would, in our view, be an unwarranted and chilling restriction on freedom of expression both of the broadcaster and the audience
‘Ofcom is clear that, consistent with freedom of expression, Mr Morgan was entitled to say he disbelieved the Duke and Duchess of Sussex’s allegations and to hold and express strong views that rigorously challenged their account’.
Viewers accused Mr Morgan of ‘harmful rhetoric’ that ‘made a mockery of suicide’ and of ‘belittling’ the Duchess of Sussex’s personal account of experiences of racism.
But today the regulator announced that the programme had not breached the broadcasting code.
In a 26-page decision summary, Ofcom said that the programme ‘contained statements about suicide and mental health’ which could be ‘harmful and highly offensive’ but that there was ‘sufficient challenge to provide adequate protection and context to its viewers’.
It continued: ‘We also considered that the comments about race in the programme could have been potentially highly offensive, but that the comments were sufficiently contextualised.
‘Therefore, our Decision is that the programme did not breach the Ofcom Broadcasting Code.’
Mr Morgan no longer works on GMB, having quit the ITV show on the evening of March 9 shortly after Ofcom launched its investigation under its harm and offence rules. His departure was announced by ITV’s director of television Kevin Lygo.
Since then Good Morning Britain’s ratings have plunged as the show has failed to find a replacement host with a string of stand-in appearances.
The ruling by Ofcom puts CEO Carolyn McCall – formerly of the left-wing Guardian newspaper – under pressure to explain why she did not stick by Mr Morgan, a decision which has cost the station millions.
The report covers Good Morning Britain’s shows on the mornings of March 8 and 9 which were presented by Mr Morgan and co-host Susanna Reid, with the first episode coming hours after the Oprah interview with the Sussexes aired.
It focuses heavily on part of the opening discussion from March 8 in which the hosts play a clip of Meghan talking about having suicidal thoughts.
In the CBS interview, which also aired on ITV later, the Duchess of Sussex tells Oprah ‘I just didn’t want to be alive anymore’, that these suicidal thoughts were ‘very, very clear’ and ‘I needed to go somewhere to get help’.
Going back to the studio for reaction, Mr Morgan responded to the clip saying: ‘I don’t believe a word she says, Meghan Markle. I wouldn’t believe it if she read me the weather report.’
Ms Reid hit back at Mr Morgan, saying: ‘Well that’s a pretty unsympathetic reaction to someone who has expressed those thoughts,’ adding that the comments could not be ‘brushed over’.
Ofcom said Mr Morgan appeared to ‘disbelieve’ what Meghan had said on having suicidal thoughts, adding that they had ‘concerns audience members may have been discouraged from seeking help about their mental health’.
However in their ruling, the regulator said Mr Morgan’s opinion was clearly challenged in interventions by Ms Reid and ITV’s Royal Editor Chris Ship.
In concluding remarks, Ofcom added: ‘We were particularly concerned about Mr Morgan’s approach to such an important and serious issue and his apparent disregard for the seriousness of anyone expressing suicidal thoughts.
Since Mr Morgan’s departure, Good Morning Britain’s ratings have plunged as the show has failed to find a successful replacement host with a string of stand-in appearances
‘Had it not been for the extensive challenge offered throughout the Programme by Ms Reid and Mr Ship, we would have been seriously concerned.’
Ofcom also received 802 messages that expressed support for Mr Morgan and objected to his ‘removal’ from Good Morning Britain.
Ofcom added that they approached ITV for a comment on their preliminary view that the programme was not in breach of the code, but the corporation declined to comment.
Mr Morgan however gave a personal response to the preliminary decision, saying that views that ‘had the potential to be offensive also had the potential not to be’ and it would not be right for Ofcom to ‘shut down’ alternative points of view.
He added it was ‘perfectly reasonable’ for a journalist to ask a question regarding discussions in bi-racial families about the skin colour of an unborn child in an appropriate context – a reference to Harry and Meghan’s claim that one royal asked ‘how dark’ their child’s skin would be.
Within days of Mr Morgan quitting the show, nearly 200,000 people had signed petitions demanding he be reinstated to his presenter role.
Mr Morgan responded to the soaring petitions on Twitter, writing that although the support came as a ‘pleasant surprise’ he would not be returning to GMB.
It later emerged that Ms Markle had herself made a formal complaint to Ofcom about the TV host after he dismissed her account of suffering suicidal thoughts and experiencing racism at the hands of the royal family.
The interview in which she made the claims to interviewer Oprah Winfrey received 4,398 complaints.
PIERS MORGAN: Ofcom’s vindication of me is a resounding victory for freedom of speech and a resounding defeat for Princess Pinocchios who think we should all be compelled to believe every fork-tongued word they say – now, do I get my GMB job back?
‘Everyone is in favour of free speech,’ said Winston Churchill, ‘but some people’s idea of it is that they are free to say what they like, but if anyone else says anything back, that is an outrage.’
He could have been talking about Prince Harry and his wife Meghan Markle, two people who think they have both the right to drop endless incendiary unsubstantiated bombshells about their family AND the right to censor and silence anyone who dares to disbelieve or challenge them.
Back in March, the Duke and Duchess of Sussex spent two hours spray-gunning the Royals to Oprah Winfrey in an explosive interview on prime-time US television.
They claimed a member of the Royal Family had been racist about their son Archie, and that their little boy had been banned from being a Prince because of his skin colour.
Back in March, the Duke and Duchess of Sussex spent two hours spray-gunning the Royals to Oprah Winfrey in an explosive interview on prime-time US television, writes PIERS MORGAN
Hours later on GMB, Piers said he didn’t believe a word Meghan Markle said triggering furious protest from her fans of the couple. Today OFCOM announced that they had rejected all the complaints against Piers
Meghan also claimed that she told several senior Palace officials she was feeling suicidal, but they told her she couldn’t have any treatment because it would be bad for the royal brand.
Oh, and she stated as fact that she and Harry secretly got married three days before their official wedding, in a private ceremony conducted by the Archbishop of Canterbury.
On ITV’s Good Morning Britain a few hours later, I said I didn’t believe a word Meghan Markle said.
This triggered a furious protest from fans of the couple who accused me of being a racist callous misogynist who was belittling Meghan’s ‘lived experience’ of mental health and racism.
But it was simpler than that: I just didn’t believe her.
Not least because it was immediately established that some of her more outlandish claims, like the secret wedding and Archie’s princely ban, were provable nonsense.
As the furore grew, a record number of 57,000 people, including Meghan Markle herself, complained about me to the UK TV government regulator OFCOM.
ITV’s Chief Executive, Dame Carolyn McCall, responded by saying that she believed Meghan’s mental health claims, and I was then told by my employers to either apologise for what I had said or leave the show with immediate effect.
I decided to leave.
As I explained in an article for the Mail on Sunday several weeks later: ‘I wasn’t going to apologise for disbelieving Meghan Markle, because the truth is that I don’t believe Meghan Markle. And in a free democratic society, I should be allowed not to believe someone, and to say that I don’t believe them. That, surely, is the very essence of freedom of speech? If I said I now believed Meghan, I would be lying to the audience, the very thing I’ve accused her of doing.’
Today, in a stunning verdict, OFCOM announced that they agreed with this argument, and rejected every single complaint against me.
Their report is lengthy and detailed, but in the end, it came down to an unequivocal and emphatic endorsement of my right to an opinion.
‘OFCOM is clear that, consistent with freedom of expression, Mr Morgan was entitled to say he disbelieved the Duke and Duchess of Sussex’s allegations and to hold and express strong views that rigorously challenged their account,’ they declared, adding that their Broadcasting Code ‘allows for individuals to express strongly held and robustly argued views, including those that are potentially harmful or highly offensive, and for broadcasters to include these in their programming.’
It concluded: ‘The restriction of such views would, in our view, be an unwarranted and chilling restriction on freedom of expression both of the broadcaster and the audience.’
Ironically, I would imagine that word will prompt a very chilly reaction from the self-satisfied Sussexes as they slurp kale smoothies in their California mansion over breakfast this morning.
Make no mistake, this is a watershed moment in the battle for free speech.
If OFCOM had found against me, that would have signalled the end of every UK TV journalist’s right to express any honestly held opinion on air lest it upset the likes of Meghan Markle.
The whole point of journalism is surely to question and challenge statements from public figures, particularly when no actual evidence is produced to support them?
Five months on from my sudden departure from GMB, at least 17 of Meghan and Harry’s claims in the Oprah interview have now been shown to be false or disingenuous.
The whole point of journalism is surely to question and challenge statements from public figures, particularly when no actual evidence is produced to support them? writes Piers
The poor old Archbishop of Canterbury was even forced to publicly deny he’d conducted a secret marriage ceremony because that would have been a criminal offence and he might have been sent to prison for it.
More pertinently, none of the couple’s most sensational and damaging statements about racism and mental health have yet been supported by a shred of evidence amid furious denials from the Royal Family.
So, my observation that I didn’t believe Meghan Markle is looking stronger by the day. And for the record, I still don’t believe her.
But that’s not really the point.
This is not about me, or Meghan Markle.
It’s about free speech and the right to have an opinion.
We now live in a woke-ravaged era where it’s become a punishable offence to say what you really think about almost anything for fear that someone, somewhere, will be offended.
This insidious ‘cancel culture’ as it’s been termed represents the most serious threat to democracy in my lifetime.
People all over the world are being shamed, vilified, and even fired from their jobs for expressing an opinion that the woke brigade don’t like.
Every day, social media platforms like Twitter and Facebook explode with self-righteous judgements handed down by the court of woke public opinion, and the consequence is that debate is being destroyed at the altar of political correctness in a way that would have Churchill turning in his grave.
This was a man who fought off the freedom-muzzling Nazis, for God’s sake!
Yet now people calling themselves ‘liberal’ are behaving like the worst kind of fascists.
That’s why this OFCOM ruling matters so much.
It was preposterous that I had to leave a job I loved because I didn’t believe a demonstrable liar.
But it happened because the corporate world has been cowed into surrendering to the woke mob whenever it bays for blood.
I was reliably informed recently that Meghan Markle wrote directly to my ITV boss Dame Carolyn McCall the night before I was forced out, demanding my head on a plate.
Apparently, she stressed that she was writing to Dame Carolyn personally because they were both women and mothers – a nauseating playing of the gender and maternity card if ever there was one.
What has the world come to when a whiny fork-tongued actress can dictate who presents a morning television news programme?
So yes, I’m obviously delighted that OFCOM has supported my right to disbelieve the Sussexes’ lurid claims against the Royal Family, many of which have failed to stand up to even a scintilla of basic scrutiny of the kind that a woefully enabling Oprah should have conducted.
This is a resounding victory for free speech and a resounding defeat for Princess Pinocchios.
As OFCOM determined, to have restricted my right to disbelieve her and Harry would have been ‘chilling.’
And when Meghan and Harry, whose unofficially authorised biography is titled ‘Finding Freedom’, lick their failed censorship wounds today, I suggest they heed the words of George Orwell: ‘If liberty means anything at all, it means the right to tell people what they do not want to hear.’
Just one question remains: does this mean I get my job back?
Ofcom’s ruling in full