Jeremy Clarkson’s Meghan article was sexist to duchess, press regulator ruleson July 1, 2023 at 6:34 am

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A record 25,000 people complained about the piece, in which Clarkson said he “hated” the Duchess of Sussex.

Jeremy ClarksonImage source, Getty Images

A column by Jeremy Clarkson in the Sun – in which he wrote about the Duchess of Sussex being paraded naked in the street – was sexist, the press regulator has ruled.

A record 25,000 people complained to Ipso, the Independent Press Standards Organisation, about the article.

The imagery was “humiliating and degrading towards the duchess”, Ipso chairman Lord Faulks said.

Prince Harry and Meghan accused Clarkson of spreading “hate rhetoric”.

They added that the article was also spreading “dangerous conspiracy theories and misogyny”.

The Sun and its star columnist both apologised for the column in December 2022.

After investigating the article, Ipso ruled the newspaper had broken its editors’ code of practice as the piece contained a “pejorative and prejudicial reference” to Meghan’s sex.

But the watchdog rejected complaints that the piece was discriminatory on the grounds of race, inaccurate or sought to harass the duchess.

In the column, Clarkson wrote that he was “dreaming of the day when [Meghan] is made to parade naked through the streets of every town in Britain while crowds chant, ‘Shame!’ and throw lumps of excrement at her”.

He later explained that he had been thinking of a scene in Game of Thrones, but wrote the column in a hurry and forgot to mention the TV show.

“So it looked like I was actually calling for revolting violence to rain down on Meghan’s head,” he said in a statement in January.

The Sun has published a summary of the regulator’s findings on the same page as the column usually appears, as well as running it on the front page of their website.

Elsewhere in the column, Clarkson wrote that he hated Meghan “on a cellular level”.

Clarkson compared his hatred of the duchess with his feelings towards former Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon and serial killer Rose West. The regulator found this comparison was because all three are female.

Ipso’s chief executive, Charlotte Dewar, told the BBC’s media correspondent David Sillito the regulator had considered complaints from two groups, gender equality charity The Fawcett Society and The Wilde Foundation, a charity that helps victims and survivors of abuse.

FILE PHOTO: Britain's Prince Harry and Meghan, Duchess of Sussex, leave after attending the National Service of Thanksgiving at St Paul's Cathedral during the Queen's Platinum Jubilee celebrations in London, Britain, June 3, 2022

Image source, Reuters

When asked if the newspaper would have to pay a fine, she responded: “The remedy that the committee required is the publication of its upheld decision, to let the not only the readers of the Sun, but also the wider public know about the reasons for the finding.”

Ms Dewar was also asked about the six months taken to produce the report. “It doesn’t take very long to form a personal opinion about the article. But that wasn’t the job of the regulator,” she said.

“Our job was to consider whether or not there was a breach of the editors’ code. We conducted a fair, independent, impartial and thorough investigation, and we’re announcing the findings today.”

She also confirmed that the complaints about the article did not come from the duchess.

The BBC has contacted Prince Harry and Meghan for comment, along with Clarkson.

The Fawcett Society’s chief executive, Jemima Olchawski, called Clarkson’s column “vile and offensive”.

“This was a particularly egregious example of media misogyny, and our case was that the language in it and the tropes that Jeremy Clarkson used added up to sexism and discrimination against Meghan Markle that was harmful to her,” she told the BBC.

She called for an investigation into how these “toxic comments” made it on to the pages “of one of our biggest newspapers”.

Senior Labour MP Harriet Harman, the society’s incoming chairwoman, called Ipso’s ruling “a big step forward for women in the battle against sexism in the media”.

‘Prejudicial reference’

Responded to Ipso’s ruling, the Sun said it “accepts that with free expression comes responsibility”.

“Half of the Sun’s readers are women and we have a very long and proud history of campaigning for women which has changed the lives of many,” it added.

It acknowledged Ipso ruled that Clarkson’s column “contained a pejorative and prejudicial reference to the duchess’s sex”.

But it added the regulator had not upheld separate elements of the complaint – that the article was inaccurate, harassed the duchess or included discriminatory references on the grounds of race.

‘Sincerely sorry’

Clarkson has said that when he read the article in the paper, he realised he had “completely messed up”.

In January he said he had emailed the couple over Christmas 2022 to tell them “the language I’d used in my column was disgraceful and that I was profoundly sorry”.

The Sun deleted the column from its website and said it was “sincerely sorry”.

However, Harry and Meghan’s spokesperson dismissed that apology, accusing the paper of profiting off and exploiting “hate, violence and misogyny”.

“A true apology would be a shift in their coverage and ethical standards for all,” they said.

The article attracted the highest number of complaints since Ipso was established in 2014.

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