The UK’s communications regulator Ofcom has ruled that Piers Morgan did not breach any broadcasting rules when he accused the Duchess of Sussex of lying about her mental health struggles.
The regulator delivered its “finely-balanced decision” on Wednesday, local time, following a six-month investigation into the March 8 episode of Good Morning Britain, saying Morgan’s comments were “potentially harmful and offensive to viewers” but ultimately formed part of a debate that was of significant public interest.
Morgan unleashed his now famous scathing rant about the duchess following her CBS interview with Oprah Winfrey, in which she confessed she contemplated suicide in the months after her wedding to the Duke of Sussex and knew she “didn’t want to be alive anymore”. Morgan told Good Morning Britain viewers: “I don’t believe a word she says, Meghan Markle. I wouldn’t believe her if she read me a weather report.”
His comments spurred more than 50,000 complaints — the most Ofcom has ever received about a single program.
In a 97-page decision, Ofcom said ruling against Morgan’s comments could amount to an “unwarranted and chilling restriction on freedom of expression”. It added that his comments were robustly challenged by his co-hosts Susanna Reid and Chris Ship.
Morgan stormed off set following his tirade against the duchess after Alex Beresford, another journalist on the hosting desk, called his comments “diabolical”.
Beresford said: “I understand that you don’t like Meghan Markle. I understand that you’ve got a personal relationship with Meghan Markle, or had one, and she cut you off. She’s entitled to cut you off if she wants to. Has she said anything about you since she cut you off? I don’t think she has, but yet you continue to trash her.”
So @alexberesfordTV defends Meghan on @gmb and criticises @piersmorgan for what he’d said about Meghan’s mental health.
Piers walks off the set.
Surely Piers knows if you give it, you gotta be able to take it?pic.twitter.com/gmoNjMxiQy
— Chris Ship (@chrisshipitv) March 9, 2021
While Ofcom ultimately cleared Morgan of any wrongdoing, it told ITV to take greater care around content discussing mental health and suicide in future.
Following news of the decision, Morgan wrote on Twitter: “Do I get my job back?”
Morgan initially refused to quit the high-profile morning show post he’d held for six years, but ITV announced his resignation in the days following the controversial episode.
Prior to marrying Prince Harry, the duchess and Morgan had a friendly relationship, according to the TV host. However, Morgan has previously claimed the former actress ditched him “like a sack of spuds” when she started dating Harry.
Morgan regularly criticises the duchess on his social media and has written a number of editorials for the Daily Mail, branding her “a whiny fork-tongued actress” and “Princess Pinocchio”.