One fateful evening in July 2016, TV presenter Piers Morgan took a pint of bitter and an outside table at the Scarsdale Arms in Kensington, West London.
He was joined there, under the pub’s celebrated cascading hanging baskets, by U.S. actress Meghan Markle — a stranger who had approached him on Twitter, seeking friendship and the chance to network during a visit to London.
She ordered a dirty Martini cocktail. Over the 90 minutes which followed, Meghan told Piers her life history — her university degree, a stint as a briefcase girl on Deal Or No Deal, and her hopes and dreams.
She hoped, she said, to come on his show, Good Morning Britain, to promote her TV drama, Suits, one day.
He was charmed by her beauty and her megawatt smile, and impressed by her poise and intelligence.
‘She’s strikingly beautiful, intelligent (she has two degrees, in theatre and international relations) and has a fun, feisty personality that flits easily between serious and frivolous subject matters,’ he noted approvingly in his column.
Then she disappeared in a taxi to meet friends for dinner — who then introduced her to Prince Harry.
The following night, Meghan and the Prince had their first date at Soho House, and the rest is history.
Morgan never heard from Meghan Markle again.
Pictured: Piers Morgan takes his daughter Elise to school in West London on Wednesday. Morgan lost his £1 million-a-year job on ITV’s Good Morning Britain after Meghan complained to ITV over remarks he had made about her following her interview with Oprah Winfrey
Now, Piers has lost his £1 million-a-year job on ITV’s Good Morning Britain after Meghan herself complained to ITV over remarks he had made about her following her interview with Oprah Winfrey — remarks Piers has refused to apologise for. He called her Princess Pinocchio and said he didn’t believe her account of feeling suicidal while pregnant with Archie.
It emerged yesterday that, post-Oprah, Meghan emailed the CEO of ITV, Dame Carolyn McCall, formerly of the Left-leaning Guardian newspaper, to say she was concerned by what Piers had said.
According to a briefing given to the Press Association, Meghan said she was ‘not upset personally’, but was worried about how his comments could affect people dealing with their own mental health problems.
This intervention — one complaint among 41,000 made — will have weighed heavily with McCall.
Not least because only a few days earlier, she had signed off on giving Oprah £1 million for the UK rights to broadcast Meghan’s interview.
She then sat back and waited for a bonanza of riches to rain down on the ITV network thanks to advertising that was sold during the two-hour show.
And now here was the subject of that very interview complaining about being traduced on air on the same network.
That was enough to boot Piers off Good Morning Britain, after five years in which he had helped to turn its fortunes around from a dire underdog of a show into a programme which has finally overtaken BBC Breakfast in the ratings. Viewing has doubled over the past two years, largely due to Piers’s outspoken views.
Already, ITV shares have slumped by nearly 5 per cent.
Was what Piers said unsympathetic? Certainly. Provocative? Without a doubt. However, his view is that it is his opinion, and he should be allowed to express it — whatever offence may be caused. Instead, he has been, at least temporarily, silenced by Meghan.
The irony, of course, is that only recently Meghan was complaining about how powerless she felt in the UK media landscape, and how she had been ‘silenced’.
Prince Harry, Meghan Markle and Piers Morgan, pictured together in 2018 in ITV’s Good Morning Britain studio
Facing TV cameras on his doorstep, Piers cheerfully said yesterday: ‘If I have to fall on my sword for expressing an honestly held opinion about Meghan Markle and that diatribe of bilge that she came out with in that interview, so be it. I think the damage she’s done to the British monarchy and to the Queen, at a time when Prince Philip is lying in hospital, is enormous and frankly contemptible.’
In private, he’s told friends he suspects personal feelings are involved on her side. ‘Meghan saw a chance to take me down,’ he told one pal. ‘She has cancelled me. It is an outrageous thing to do.’ I can reveal that Piers was also not informed that Meghan was one of those who had complained to ITV — only finding out yesterday after he had already left.
He told pals: ‘She’s complained to my bosses and I was sacked, which is an outrageous thing to do. She wants to be able to speak her truth, but I am not able to speak mine. My rights to have an opinion are being censored.’
Piers, who has described his on-screen persona as ‘a bit of a pantomime villain’, but is generally very popular among GMB staff, last year published a book called Wake Up: Why The World Has Gone Nuts — waging war on woke.
An insider said: ‘Piers feels it boils down to whether he is entitled to have an opinion about the veracity of what she said.
‘His view is that the problem with these “woke battles” is that you cannot prostrate yourself enough. You cannot apologise enough.
‘People bay for blood and Piers wasn’t prepared to do any more than that. It comes down to whether Piers has the right to disbelieve her.
‘A lot of the media do not believe her, and polls suggest a lot of the British public don’t either. Should he be cancelled for that?
‘Sadly, ITV has become a place of a million woke micro-aggressions. It has positioned itself as a champion of mental health. It became too difficult to have someone with his inflammatory style on a news programme.
‘The woke brigade are using mental health as a stick to come after anyone they disagree with.’
Piers Morgan (centre) speaks to reporters as he walks his daughter Elise to school in Kensington, central London, the morning after it was announced by broadcaster ITV that he was leaving as a host of Good Morning Britain. Picture date: Wednesday March 10
Insiders at ITV also say that what has happened this week needs to be considered through the prism of the broadcaster’s sensitivities and regrets over the suicide of Love Island presenter Caroline Flack last year.
‘ITV simply cannot have a young, pregnant woman looking as if she is being bullied over mental health issues,’ says a source.
‘Caroline Flack’s death, and the criticism which came ITV’s way has made them very sensitive. Yes, Piers has changed the face of breakfast TV, but that kind of tone over that subject matter wasn’t acceptable to them.’
The seeds of the Piers crisis date back to 2018, when he started to exhibit an animosity towards Meghan, a woman who had begged him for a bit of attention, but then ignored him as beneath her from then on.
Piers took regular potshots at her on GMB. He mused: ‘She is someone I thought I was pretty matey with and “bang”, she met somebody more important and that was it.’
He criticised her over the private christening of Archie, over her broken relationship with her father, and over Harry’s complaints over ‘racist’ Press coverage. Piers said she and Harry were ‘the two most spoiled brats in history’.
There was more ire expressed over Megxit, and her interview with Oprah — both its timing and contents. He called it ‘vile, destructive self-serving nonsense’ — the comments that have cost him his job.
On Monday morning, after the interview had aired in the U.S., a clip was played of Meghan discussing her mental health issues. Piers said: ‘I don’t believe a word she says.’ He added: ‘I wouldn’t believe it if she read me a weather report.’
The mental health charity Mind got in touch with ITV to express its concerns.
Piers spoke to ITV CEO McCall and director of programmes, Kevin Lygo, on Monday afternoon and it was agreed he should clarify his comments.
On Tuesday, he said on air: ‘When we talked about this yesterday, I said as an all-encompassing thing I don’t believe what Meghan Markle is saying generally in this interview, and I still have serious concerns about the veracity of a lot of what she said.
Morgan reinvented himself as a TV personality on Britain’s Got Talent and Celebrity Apprentice, and as a celebrity interviewer, taking over from Larry King in the U.S. before returning to the UK to become a provocative and divisive figure on Good Morning Britain alongside Susanna Reid (right)
‘But let me just state for the record . . . on mental illness and suicide, these are clearly extremely serious things . . . and if someone is feeling that way they should get the treatment and the help they need. Every time.
‘And if they belong to an institution like the Royal Family and they go and seek that help, they should absolutely be given it.
‘It’s not for me to question if she felt suicidal, I am not in her mind and that is for her to say. My real concern was a disbelief, frankly — and I’m prepared to be proven wrong on this, and if I’m wrong it is a scandal — that she went to a senior member of the Royal household and told them she was suicidal, and was told she could not have any help because it would be a bad look for the family. If that is true a) that person should be fired; and b) the Royal Family have serious questions that need to be answered.’
However, this clarification was not felt to be contrite enough.
Insiders say that after the show, when Piers briefly stormed off after being criticised by weather presenter Alex Beresford, he was asked to apologise once again on air on Wednesday — and refused.
At this point, he and ITV agreed that he should leave the show. He said: ‘I had a good chat with ITV and we agreed to disagree. I’m just going to take it easy and see how we go. I believe in freedom of speech, I believe in the right to be allowed to have an opinion. If people want to believe Meghan Markle, that’s their right.’
He’s now quietly negotiating with ITV over his contract, which had another year left to run. He also presents a successful Life Stories TV interview show and is a columnist for MailOnline.
With 7.8 million Twitter followers and numerous friends among the media elite, it’s a safe bet he won’t stay cancelled for long.
Speculation is raging that he will take a new job at GB News, an upcoming British TV news channel due to launch this year.
Certainly, he is the king of comebacks. Having been plucked from The Sun’s showbusiness column to edit the News of the World, aged only 28, he made a terrible howler, intruding into the privacy of Princess Diana’s sister-in-law, Victoria, Countess Spencer, when it reported on her stay in a clinic.
He held on to his job, and went to the Daily Mirror, where he survived a share-tipping scandal before finally being sacked after publishing faked photos, purporting to show British soldiers abusing an Iraqi prisoner.
He’s since reinvented himself as a TV personality on Britain’s Got Talent and Celebrity Apprentice, and as a celebrity interviewer, taking over from Larry King in the U.S. before returning to the UK to become a provocative and divisive figure on Good Morning Britain alongside Susanna Reid.
Yesterday, Reid said: ‘He is without doubt an outspoken, challenging, opinionated, disruptive broadcaster.
‘He has many critics and he has many fans. You will know I disagreed with him about Meghan’s interview. He himself clarified his comments about her mental health on the show yesterday.
‘There are many voices on GMB and everyone has their say. But now Piers has decided to leave the programme. Some of you may cheer and others may boo.
‘He has been my presenting partner, Monday to Wednesday, for more than five years, and during Brexit and the pandemic and other issues, he has been a voice for many of you and a voice many of you have railed against.
‘It is certainly going to be very different, but shows go on and so on we go.’
ITV’s Lorraine Kelly told The One Show it was ‘certainly going to be quieter’ without Morgan, adding: ‘It will be calmer.’
Piers said: ‘I think it’s fair to say, although the woke crowd will think that they’ve cancelled me, I think they will be rather disappointed when I re-emerge. I would call it a temporary hibernation.’