Britain’s Independent Press Standards Organization (IPSO) has upheld complaints filed over tabloid journalist Jeremy Clarkson’s 2022 newspaper column in which he described his desire to see Meghan Markle paraded “naked through the streets” and shamed.
After a lengthy investigation, IPSO announced on Friday its findings that Clarkson’s December 16 column for The Sun tabloid newspaper titled “One day, Harold the glove puppet will tell the truth about A Woman Talking B*****ks,” contained “a pejorative and prejudicial reference to the Duchess’ sex,” breaching the Editors’ Code of Practice.
A vocal critic of Meghan’s in the years since she left the royal family with Prince Harry in 2020, Clarkson wrote in the column: “I hate her. Not like I hate [former First Minister of Scotland] Nicola Sturgeon or [convicted serial killer] Rose West. I hate her on a cellular level.
“At night, I’m unable to sleep as I lie there, grinding my teeth and dreaming of the day when she is made to parade naked through the streets of every town in Britain while the crowds chant, ‘Shame!’ and throw lumps of excrement at her.”
The shaming analogy, he later claimed, was a failed reference to the HBO show Game of Thrones.
After receiving over 25,000 complaints, led by women’s rights campaigners the Fawcett Society and WILDE Foundation, IPSO has made the landmark decision to uphold the formal complaint against The Sun, on the grounds of sexism.
In breaking th story that the Fawcett Society was taking action against Clarkson’s December 16 column, a spokesperson for IPSO told Newsweek in February: “IPSO can confirm we are investigating a complaint from the Fawcett Society under Clause 3 (Harassment) and Clause 12 (Discrimination).”
IPSO has ruled that the column violated Clause 12, on the grounds that Clarkson inferred that Meghan’s power was drawn from her sexuality not her personal achievements; that he also attributed “hate” towards three women in his writing; and that his Game of Thrones analogy was a reference to a “fictional scene of public humiliation given to a sexually manipulative woman.”
Chair of IPSO, Lord Faulks, said of the investigation’s findings that: “This was a serious breach of the Editors’ Code of Practice. We ruled that in this article The Sun published a pejorative and prejudicial reference to the Duchess of Sussex’s sex and breached Clause 12 (Discrimination) of the Editors’ Code of Practice.”
“We found that the imagery employed by the columnist in this article was humiliating and degrading toward the Duchess.”
He added that as a result of the ethics breach, The Sun is required to “publish a summary of the findings written by IPSO.” This summary will appear on the page usually taken up by Clarkson’s column and a direction to this will be flagged on the paper’s front page.
Though found to have violated Clause 12, the investigation by IPSO ruled that the publication of the isolated column could not be considered an inherent breach of Clause 3 (harassment) or Clause 1 (accuracy) of the editor’s code.
Responding to the ruling on Friday, Jemima Olchawski, chief executive of the Fawcett Society, said in a press release: “The Fawcett Society and WILDE Foundation have made history with our complaints against The Sun for its publication of Jeremy Clarkson’s vile and offensive column about the Duchess of Sussex, Meghan Markle. All women are harmed if any woman is the target of sexist reporting and media misogyny is not acceptable.”
Olchawski also added that a “thorough and transparent investigation” must now be carried out to determine how the “toxic comments” made it past editors and into publication of one of Britain’s most read newspapers.
Soon after its publication, The Sun removed the column from its website, issuing an apology to its readers, which also coincided with Clarkson tweeting: “I’m horrified to have caused so much hurt and I shall be more careful in future.”
These initial apologies did little to assuage the public outrage surrounding Clarkson’s words. In January, Prince Harry publicly addressed the column in an interview given to Anderson Cooper to promote his memoir, Spare.
In discussing his and Meghan’s treatment at the hands of the British tabloid media, and asked whether Clarkson’s words were surprising to the royal, he said: “Did it surprise me? No. Is it shocking? Yes. I mean, thank you for proving our point.”
Days after Harry’s TV interview, Clarkson issued a longer, formal apology, in which he stated that he had “emailed Harry and Meghan in California to apologize to them.”
Following this statement however, a spokesperson for Harry and Meghan told Newsweek that though an email had been sent, it was not addressed to the duchess.
“On 25 December 2022, Mr. Clarkson wrote solely to Prince Harry, the Duke of Sussex. The contents of his correspondence were marked private and confidential,” they explained.
“While a new public apology has been issued today by Mr. Clarkson, what remains to be addressed is his longstanding pattern of writing articles that spread hate rhetoric, dangerous conspiracy theories and misogyny.
“Unless each of his other pieces were also written ‘in a hurry,’ as he states, it is clear that this is not an isolated incident shared in haste, but rather a series of articles shared in hate.”
Clarkson has retained his column for The Sun, whose publishers—the Murdoch owned News Group Newspapers—is currently being sued by Prince Harry, over historic allegations of unlawful information gathering informing stories written about his private life between 1994 and 2016.
The group has denied a number of the prince’s claims.