The owner of MailOnline and the Daily Mail has complained to CBS for doctoring headlines and taking them out of context during the Oprah interview.
Associated Newspapers said a section of the programme designed to illustrate racist coverage of Meghan by the British press was ‘seriously inaccurate and misleading’.
CBS invited viewers to believe that a montage of cuttings were all headlines that had appeared in British newspapers – but some had been edited or even manufactured using sentences selectively plucked from the article.
Many were not even articles from the UK media but from foreign newspapers, including US tabloids.
In a letter sent to Viacom CBS yesterday, Associated Newspapers’ legal director Elizabeth Hartley demanded the montage be removed from the broadcast.
WHAT THEY SHOWED: The mocked-up headline purported to be from this website is reduced to a single quote and appeared as a commentator discussed ‘undeniable racist overtones’ in media coverage
IN REAL LIFE: The story – which was on the front of that day’s Mail On Sunday – was a story exposing the suspension of the girlfriend of the UKIP leader for using the racist phrase that appeared in the headline. Producers removed all that context
Many were not even articles from the UK media but from foreign newspapers, including US tabloids such as Star magazine
She said one of the most ‘egregious’ examples was an article that appeared in the programme with the headline: ‘Meghan’s seed will taint our Royal Family’.
The actual headline that appeared on MailOnline made clear the article was about the suspension of a UKIP party member for making racist comments about Meghan.
But it was so drastically trimmed back for the Oprah interview that this was not obvious.
Ms Hartley said: ‘It is a thoroughly dishonest misrepresentation of a newspaper headline and article which was the opposite of racist. No one viewing the programme would have understood this from the montage.’
She also pointed to another supposed headline that appeared in the montage that was not a genuine headline at all.
The broadcast had mocked-up a MailOnline headline to read: ‘Rich and exotic DNA, Miss Markle’s mother is a dread-locked African American lady from the wrong side of the tracks…’
This was not the headline that appeared on Rachel Johnson’s comment piece in 2016, but was instead a sentence lifted from the article and paraded as a headline.
WHAT THEY SHOWED: The producers plucked a line from the article about ‘rich and exotic DNA’ and wrote it in a large typeface where the headline would normally be
IN REAL LIFE: The text the show featured appeared in a column by the Prime Minister’s sister Rachel Johnson. This is how it actually appeared online. The line of text that the show made appear to be the headline was in fact taken from the middle of paragraph three of the 11-paragraph piece
Ms Hartley said that, in context, ‘it is clear that Rachel Johnson’s intention was not to racially abuse the duchess’ but rather to ‘praise the duchess’s genetics, looks, social conscience and humanitarian efforts’.
She added: ‘While Ms Johnson has since accepted that the phrasing was regrettable, it is plainly misleading to present this sentence out of context, disguised as a headline, and as an example of racist online abuse.’
It was exposed earlier this week how the CBS broadcast, watched by 17million in the US and 11million in the UK via ITV, also doctored UK media websites.
One even altered the words on the Daily Telegraph’s website into American English.
The same newspaper later reported that 11 of the 30 headlines shown during the montage were from US or Australian outlets.
WHAT THEY SHOWED: The headline read ‘BBC comedy portrays Meghan Markle as ”trailer trash” American who threatens to knife Kate Middleton’. But the character was actually meant to be the opposite of what Meghan was really like
IN REAL LIFE: The article as it appeared on the Telegraph’s website – with Defence spelled the English way, not how the Americans mocked it up – makes it clear that the comedienne portraying Meghan as ‘trailer trash’ was doing so as it was ‘finding humour’ in a ‘ridiculous’ idea
Ms Hartley stressed that Associated Newspapers ‘unquestionably supports freedom of speech and the First Amendment’ but said the montage section of the programme went against CBS’ own commitment to journalistic integrity.
She said: ‘In conclusion, the programme in its current form, does not comply with the ViacomCBS editorial policies or align with its stated values. In terms of both accuracy and integrity, the programme is clearly compromised by the inclusion of this misleading montage.
‘Accordingly, I should be grateful for your urgent confirmation that the offending content will be removed from the programme currently being made available to the public.
‘We also understand that a further broadcast is being planned tonight. The montage should therefore be deleted prior to that broadcast.’
CBS did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Harpo productions, Oprah Winfrey’s company, said: ‘Prince Harry and Meghan, the Duke and Duchess of Sussex, shared in the interview their personal story. We stand by the broadcast in its entirety.’