Piers Morgan has won a battle against media regulator Ofcom over comments he made about Meghan Markle.
Back in March, the outspoken presenter told Good Morning Britain(GMB) viewers that he “didn’t believe a word” the Duchess of Sussex said during her explosive interview with Oprah Winfrey.
His remarks sparked a record 57,793 complaints to Ofcom, and ultimately led to his exit from the breakfast TV show.
It later emerged that Meghan had lodged her own formal complaint to the watchdog after the 55-year-old TV host dismissed her account of having suicidal thoughts and experiencing racism.
However, on Wednesday, Morgan and GMB were cleared by Ofcom over the incident, with the regulator concluding that his views didn’t break its broadcasting code.
A summary of the ruling said: “This programme focused on the interview between Oprah Winfrey and the Duke and Duchess of Sussex.
“It contained statements about suicide and mental health which had the potential to be harmful and highly offensive.
“However, our decision is that overall the programme contained sufficient challenge to provide adequate protection and context to its viewers. 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.”
So why did the Ofcom investigation come about? How did the regulator justify its ruling? And what’s been the public response?
What did Morgan say and why?
Morgan’s brutal assessment came after Meghan, 40, made serious allegations against the Royal Family during her infamous discussion with the iconic US chat show host.
The now mum-of-two told Winfrey that she was ignored when raising concerns about her mental health and alleged that racist comments had been made before the birth of her son, Archie.
Morgan responded to one clip of Meghan revealing that she’d had suicidal thoughts during the now notorious GMB broadcast, saying: “I’m sorry, I don’t believe a word she says.
“I wouldn’t believe her if she read me a weather report.”
ITV announced Morgan had left the show on the evening of March 9, shortly after Ofcom said it had launched an investigation under its harm and offence rules.
The episode on March 8 became the most complained about moment in Ofcom’s history.
Announcing its ruling on September 1, the regulator acknowledged that Morgan’s comments were “potentially harmful and offensive”. However, it also said it “took full account of freedom of expression”, acknowledging that, under its rules, “broadcasters can include controversial opinions”.
Its full statement read: “This was a finely-balanced decision. Mr Morgan’s comments were potentially harmful and offensive to viewers, and we recognise the strong public reaction to them.
“But we also took full account of freedom of expression. Under our rules, broadcasters can include controversial opinions as part of legitimate debate in the public interest, and the strong challenge to Mr Morgan from other contributors provided important context for viewers.
“Nonetheless, we’ve reminded ITV to take greater care around content discussing mental health and suicide in future. ITV might consider the use of timely warnings or signposting of support services to ensure viewers are properly protected.”
How have Morgan and the rest of the public responded?
Following the ruling, Morgan tweeted: “I’m delighted OFCOM has endorsed my right to disbelieve the Duke & Duchess of Sussex’s incendiary claims to Oprah Winfrey, many of which have proven to be untrue. This is a resounding victory for free speech and a resounding defeat for Princess Pinocchios.
He then added (presumably as a joke): “Do I get my job back?”
Others have been quick to praise the decision as a victory for free speech, even those who aren’t fans of Morgan himself:
However, critics have argued that Ofcom’s ruling doesn’t clear him of broader accusations against his character:
Whatever your stance, it will be interesting to see whether his joke about “getting his job back” is taken seriously over at ITV…