A column in The Sun tabloid who fantasized about seeing Prince Harry’s wife, Meghan, being bombarded with excrement as she paraded through the streets naked was sexist, the British press watchdog has found.
TV personality Jeremy Clarkson’s column in December described how he hated the Duchess of Sussex “on a cellular level”. He said she used “vivid bedroom promises” to turn Harry into a “woke warrior” and controlled him like a sock puppet.
“The images employed by the columnist in this article were humiliating and demeaning to the Duchess,” said Edward Faulks, chairman of the Independent Press Standards Organisation. “IPSO’s aim is to protect the public and freedom of expression by upholding high editorial standards. In this case, The Sun failed to meet those standards.
The independent organization, through which most UK newspapers, magazines and digital news outlets voluntarily pledge to be regulated, found that multiple ‘pejorative and detrimental’ references to Meghan’s gender breached the Code of its publishers.
“Stereotypes of women using their sexuality to exert influence…implied that it was the Duchess’s sexuality – rather than any other attribute or accomplishment – that was the source of her power,” the findings state.
The article inspired a record number of complaints to the regulator, which forced the newspaper to inform its readers of the findings published on Friday evening.
The newspaper printed a headline “Jeremy Clarkson: IPSO Supports Complaint” at the bottom of its front page on Saturday and directed readers to a summary of the report where Clarkson’s column usually appears on page 17. The newspaper had removed the column and had apologized in December.
Clarkson, who made a name for himself as a combative host of the BBC motoring show “Top Gear” and hosts motoring show “The Grand Tour” on Amazon, previously said he was “horrified” after the blowback. He apologized and promised to be more careful.
Clarkson’s daughter had been among those who blew up the column. “I oppose everything my dad has written about Meghan Markle and continue to support those targeted by online hate,” Emily Clarkson posted on instagram.
Jeremy Clarkson said the image of him daydreaming about Meghan being publicly shamed was an “awkward reference” to a scene from ‘Game of Thrones’.
The column followed the publication of a six-part Netflix documentary about Harry and Meghan’s acrimonious split from the British royal family. The couple quit royal duties and moved to California in 2020, citing a lack of palace support and racist press treatment of Meghan, who is biracial.
The press regulator dismissed complaints that the column was inaccurate or harassed or discriminated against Meghan on the basis of her race.
Harry called the article “horrific, hurtful and cruel” and said the column would encourage misogyny.
Meghan did not formally complain about the report but did not object to the investigation launched after the Fawcett Society, a gender equality group, and the Wilde Foundation, a charity supporting women victims of violence, filed complaints.
The Fawcett Society welcomed the findings, which were IPSO’s first to support claims of sexism.
“This landmark decision is a real opportunity for our media to catch up with what women have known for years – misogyny and hate are not acceptable and they can no longer be disguised as satire or jokes,” said Jemima Olchawski, CEO of the Fawcett Society.