A slap on the wrist is all Jeremy Clarkson gets after penning ‘degrading’ column on Duchess Meghan

The article by Clarkson, 63, of ‘Top Gear’ television fame, was published in the Sun newspaper in December. Picture: PA/ANDY RAIN

The article by Clarkson, 63, of ‘Top Gear’ television fame, was published in the Sun newspaper in December. Picture: PA/ANDY RAIN

Published Jul 3, 2023


By By Adela Suliman

London - Outspoken British tabloid columnist and television host Jeremy Clarkson has been reprimanded by the country's press standards regulator over a controversial opinion column he wrote about Meghan, Duchess of Sussex, in which he described imagining her stripped naked and publicly humiliated before jeering crowds.

The article by Clarkson, 63, of "Top Gear" television fame, was published in the Sun newspaper in December.

It "contained a pejorative and prejudicial reference to the Duchess' sex," breaching an editors' code of practice, the Independent Press Standards Organization (IPSO) ruled on Friday.

As part of the penalty, the Sun "has been instructed to publish a summary of the findings against it - written by IPSO - on the same page as the column usually appears," as well as flagging the ruling on its front page and online, it added.

In the 2022 column, Clarkson wrote: "I hate her," of Meghan, 41. "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," he continued.

His column about the biracial American actress and activist, who is married to Prince Harry, drew widespread criticism, and Clarkson later tweeted that it had been a "clumsy reference to a scene in Game of Thrones."

"This was a serious breach of the Editors' Code of Practice," IPSO Chairman Edward Faulks in a statement. "We found that the imagery employed by the columnist in this article was humiliating and degrading toward the Duchess."

He reiterated that the regulators' purpose is to protect the public and freedom of expression by upholding high editorial standards.

The column received "more than 25,100 complaints from the public," according to IPSO - and was reported in another publication to be the article most complained about to the press body since it was established in 2014.

The formal complaint was brought by two women's rights non-profit groups - the Fawcett Society and the WILDE Foundation.

"We won," the Fawcett Society said in a statement on Saturday, calling the decision a historic victory against "misogyny in the media."

In the public backlash at the time, senior politicians, as well as Clarkson's own daughter, lambasted the op-ed.

It also dragged the wife of King Charles III, Camilla, into the furore after it emerged that she had hosted Clarkson at a palace luncheon a few days before the column ran.

The motoring enthusiast, who is a household name in Britain with over 8 million followers on social media, was described at the time by the Sun as a "polemicist known for employing hyperbolic language."

In a statement on Friday, the newspaper's publisher, NewsUK, said both Clarkson and the Sun had apologised last year.

"The Sun accepts that with free expression comes responsibility," it said. "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."

Clarkson's column also accused Meghan of turning her husband, Prince Harry, "into a warrior of woke" and likened her to a puppet master using "her fingers to alter his facial expressions."

Shortly after it was published, Clarkson tweeted: "Oh dear. I've rather put my foot in it," adding, "I'm horrified to have caused this much hurt and I shall be more careful in the future."

The newspaper group, owned by Rupert Murdoch's News Corp, also removed the online version of the article and issued an apology: "We at The Sun regret the publication of this article and we are sincerely sorry."

However, IPSO did not uphold separate elements of the complaint "that the article was inaccurate, harassed the Duchess of Sussex, and included discriminatory references to her on the grounds of race."

Although it said it "acknowledged the strength and sincerity" of the complaints, it "concluded that the elements of the article cited . . . did not provide a basis to establish that there was a pejorative reference to race."

Some online commentators have criticized the finding, stating that it did not go far enough and calling for personal sanctions against Clarkson, who continues to write for the tabloid.

"It took IPSO 6 months to come up with this weak decision. Not only sexist, it was misogynistic, racist & hateful," tweeted one lawmaker.

Others have labelled it a "glaringly obvious conclusion," and some noted a "disgraceful lack of comment from the royal family on this appalling column."

Harry and Meghan have not publicly commented on the ruling but have long accused the British press of harassing them.

This had a "devastating impact on our mental health," Harry said in a London court last month, adding that the treatment of the couple by the press had partially prompted their decision to relocate to the United States in 2020.

In their Netflix documentary series, the couple accused some tabloids of inciting hate and racism against them, and they claimed that palace press teams were commonly briefing the media against the couple behind the scenes.

They have also been entangled in a number of court cases in Britain on the issue of press intrusion, with Harry recently telling a court that he felt "paranoid of the people around me" and that he had experienced "hostility from the press since I was born," as he campaigns to improve privacy standards in the media.

William Booth contributed to this report.