Piers Morgan was blasted by a co-host on “Good Morning Britain” on Tuesday for his behavior towards Meghan, Duchess of Sussex, prompting the former CNN anchor to briefly walk off the set of the ITV show.
The incident followed Oprah Winfrey’s explosive interview with Prince Harry and Meghan, which aired in the United Kingdom on Monday night. In the interview, Meghan opened up about having suicidal thoughts and said a member of the royal family had raised concerns about how dark her baby’s skin would be.
Morgan, who has previously accused Meghan of tearing Harry away from the royal family, hit out at the interview after it was first broadcast Sunday in the United States. He said on Twitter on Monday that it was “just another reminder that anyone who criticizes Meghan Markle is deemed a racist bully.”
He also questioned on Monday’s show whether she was being truthful about having suicidal thoughts, comments he has since tried to walk back.
UK media regulator Ofcom said it had received over 41,000 complaints about the program as of Tuesday afternoon. “We have launched an investigation into Monday’s episode of Good Morning Britain under our harm and offence rules,” it said in a statement on Twitter.
On Tuesday, Morgan faced criticism from his own colleague.
“I understand that you [Morgan] don’t like Meghan Markle, you’ve made it so clear a number of times on this program,” said “Good Morning Britain” co-host Alex Beresford. “And I understand that you’ve got a personal relationship with Meghan Markle, or had one and she cut you off,” he added.
“Has she said anything about you since she cut you off? I don’t think she has, but yet you continue to trash her,” Beresford said.
At that point, Morgan got up and, while walking off the set, said, “Okay, I’m done with this, sorry, no, sorry… see you later, sorry, can’t do this.”
Beresford went on to describe the former tabloid newspaper editor’s behavior as “absolutely diabolical.” Following an ad break and a news segment, Morgan returned to the set and continued the discussion.
Meghan and Harry have had a fraught relationship with parts of the British press and have sued several newspapers, singling out the tabloids for waging a “ruthless campaign” against them.
“Yes they had some great press around the wedding, but there was bad press around the engagement, before the engagement and everything that has followed since has been incredibly damaging quite clearly to Meghan’s mental health and also to Harry,” Beresford said, before Morgan walked off set.
Some press coverage has played on racist stereotypes, which led 72 female members of the UK parliament to write a letter to the Duchess in 2019 expressing solidarity with her in the face of the “outdated, colonial undertones” of some media stories.
Critics say that the media’s treatment of Meghan, which contrasts starkly with the positive coverage given to her sister-in-law Kate Middleton, the Duchess of Cambridge, is at least partly explained by a lack of newsroom diversity.
Just 6% of journalists across UK newsrooms don’t identify as White, compared with about 13% of the general population, according to a 2016 report by the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism. The same study found that while Black Britons make up 3% of the population, they account for just 0.2% of journalists.
Meghan’s mental health
Morgan, who hosted a show on CNN from 2011 to 2014, received push back from mental health charity Mind after he cast doubts on Meghan’s comments that she had suffered from suicidal thoughts.
During the interview with Oprah, the Duchess said she “didn’t want to be alive anymore” and had contemplated suicide while pregnant with Archie. She said the royal family had told her she couldn’t seek help because “it wouldn’t be good for the institution.”
After “Good Morning Britain” played the clip on Monday’s edition of the show, Morgan said he didn’t “believe a word” Meghan says. “I wouldn’t believe her if she read me the weather report and the fact that she’s fired up this onslaught against our royal family I think is contemptible,” he added.
Mind, one of the supporters of ITV’s mental health campaign, said in a statement that it was “disappointed and concerned” over Morgan’s comments. “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,” the charity added.
In a statement Tuesday, ITV did not comment on Morgan’s behavior but affirmed its commitment to working with charity partners to encourage people to talk about their mental health. “It is very important that if anyone has suicidal thoughts that they should always speak out and be listened to.”
Morgan has since qualified his comments, while maintaining that he still has “serious concerns” about the veracity of “a lot” of what she said in the interview.
“It’s not for me to question if she felt suicidal,” he said on the show Tuesday, adding that mental illness and suicide “should be taken extremely seriously.”
How to get help: In the US, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255. The International Association for Suicide Prevention and Befrienders Worldwide also provide contact information for crisis centers around the world.