Piers Morgan and Meghan Markle: The war on words

Piers Morgan and Meghan Markle: The war on words

Piers Morgan leaves Good Morning Britain after a heated argument with co-presenter, Alex Beresford over Meghan Markle and Prince Harry’s interview with Oprah Winfrey. But was it right for him to leave?

“An outspoken, challenging, opinionated, disruptive broadcaster,” were the words Susanna Reid used to describe her former Good Morning Britain (GMB) co-presenter Piers Morgan, the day after his final on-screen outburst. That’s not to say he might not be back elsewhere, but it’s clear we won’t see him again on GMB, and people are split on whether his dismissal was justified or not.

It is reported that Ofcom received a total of 41,015 complaints about Morgan’s denial to believe Markle had suicidal thoughts in the early stage of her marriage to Prince Harry, as she claimed in her much-awaited interview with Oprah Winfrey. 

The number of complaints suggests many were aghast that Morgan didn’t believe her, but there were people who came out in his support

For example, sports broadcaster Gary Lineker described the broadcaster as “excellent”, predicting “he’ll be back on the telly soon”. Sharon Osborne expressed similar sentiments, insinuating he had been dismissed for “speaking your truth.” The American journalist, Megyn Kelly also criticised ITV’s decision to dismiss Morgan from GMB, suggesting he had the right to freedom of speech.

Indeed, Morgan himself believed his freedom of speech was being threatened. Not long after his dismissal, he posted on his Instagram page an extract of his recent book, in which he wrote that he believed  ITV “refused to bow down to the mob” of cancel-culture. His caption hinted a tone of irony now that ITV has removed him. 

The issue of freedom of speech is not an uncommon one in the mainstream media. And in my opinion, the debate on whether Morgan was a victim of cancel-culture with his opinions being forcibly silenced by woke gatekeepers, is contentious. 

Personally, I’ve regarded Morgan as a reasonable figure, if sometimes boisterous. Universally, he’s known as the stubbornly fierce interrogator modern-day television may rarely have seen an equal to. Morgan has shown us he is no ordinary journalist, by pulling apart alleged lies made by our Government Ministers over their mishandling of the COVID-19 pandemic, for instance.

IAB UK/Flickr

He is indeed a turbulent, yet rational voice in the mainstream media. And I’ve never really understood his unrelenting obsession with Markle.

For the most, it matters little to me what he may or may not like about her. However, his recent outrage over her and Prince Harry’s interview seemed a step too far. 

When I watched the interview, I remember being particularly struck by how Markle described her worsening mental health. How the intrusions into her life and the lies propelled by the media against her had affected her. Markle’s distress was palpable, her worries raw. As someone who struggles with mental health, although nowhere near to the extent explained by the Duchess of Sussex, this resonated with me.

Mark Jones/Wikimedia

It’s possible that it resonated with the 41 thousand people who lodged the complaints against Morgan too. After all, in England alone, 1 in 6 people experience a common mental health problem each week. Many of us may want to believe her. Yet, we would still be assuming her honesty, insofar as we can never prove whether she was suicidal or not.

Likewise, Morgan may not want to believe, for reasons only he truly knows. This however does not mean he reserves the right to deny someone’s lived experiences. Freedom of speech is not a free pass for people to say whatever they want. You cannot drag someone to breaking point and claim they should be able to accept it under the guise of free speech. 

Morgan is merely one public figure and his dismissal might only be temporary. However, the wider problem is the mainstream media, which tolerates – even encourages behaviour like the kind displayed by Morgan. Time and again it twists and spins, misleads and exaggerates in the name of framing.

To take a more trivial example, I read yesterday that slow walkers were more likely to die from COVID-19 – in reading the article, however, it transpired that there was no causal link. This is just one instance where the media threw logic away in favour of sensationalism. In truth, many a time I have read something on the news only to find that the real event was woefully distorted. 

It isn’t intrinsically immoral to analyse and present something through the lens of one perspective. We’re all human with our own judgements and biases, some of which we cannot abandon. What is not right though is to intend to stir resentment by deliberately twisting reality, and pretending you know what you have no evidence of. 

It is okay to be outspoken, hold an opinion and be fierce in your assertion. You can be challenging and even disruptive where you need to be. But you cannot deny someone’s lived experiences just because you dislike that person. 

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