Royal attacks â€˜racial undertonesâ€™ of British press coverage of relationship with the American actor
November 8, 2016:Â Prince Harry has attacked the â€œracial undertonesâ€ of press coverage of his girlfriend Meghan Markle in an extraordinary statement in which he warns that he fears for her safety.
The prince said â€œa line has been crossedâ€ in reporting of his relationship with the 35-year-old American actor, who lives in Toronto.
â€œSome of this has been very public,â€ his spokesman said in a statement. â€œThe smear on the front page of a national newspaper; the racial undertones of comment pieces; and the outright sexism and racism of social media trolls and web article comments.â€
The statement confirms for the first time that the pair are in a relationship but launches a powerful and unprecedented attack at the media by the prince.
â€œPrince Harry is worried about Ms Markleâ€™s safety and is deeply disappointed that he has not been able to protect her,â€ it said. â€œIt is not right that a few months into a relationship with him that Ms Markle should be subjected to such a storm.
â€œHe knows commentators will say this is â€˜the price she has to payâ€™ and that â€˜this is all part of the gameâ€™. He strongly disagrees. This is not a game â€“ it is her life and his. He has asked for this statement to be issued in the hopes that those in the press who have been driving this story can pause and reflect before any further damage is done. He knows that it is unusual to issue a statement like this, but hopes that fair-minded people will understand why he has felt it necessary to speak publicly.â€
The actor, whose father is white and mother is African-American, has written about her heritage on her own website, describing herself as biracial and â€œhalf black and half whiteâ€. Her father, Thomas Markle, is a lighting director who worked on the US TV show Married with Children, while her mother, Doria Ragland is a social worker and yoga therapist. The couple reportedly divorced when she was six.
The palace declined to specify which press coverage it objects to. It is understood aides were particularly concerned about some of the widespread coverage in the weekend papers but again did not cite particular articles.
One comment piece in last weekendâ€™s Mail on Sunday, by Rachel Johnson, said: â€œGenetically, she is blessed. If there is issue from her alleged union with Prince Harry, the Windsors will thicken their watery, thin blue blood and Spencer pale skin and ginger hair with some rich and exotic DNA.â€
On Wednesday, the Sun ran a headline above an interview with Markleâ€™s sister, saying: â€œDonâ€™t fall for my little sis Harry, sheâ€™d be the next princess pushyâ€. On Friday, it headlined a story on its front page â€œHarryâ€™s girlfriend on Pornhubâ€, a reference to the internet pornography site.
News UK, publisher of the Sun and Sun on Sunday, declined to comment. Senior staff indicated they were trawling through the domestic and international coverage to understand the detail of Prince Harryâ€™s concerns over trolling and harassment of her family.
The princeâ€™s statement also attacked what it called â€œsubstantial bribes offered by papersâ€ to Markleâ€™s former boyfriend.
Kensington Palace listed a string of complaints it had about the conduct of newspapers, citing:
- â€œNightly legal battlesâ€ to keep defamatory stories out of papers.
- Her mother â€œhaving to struggle past photographersâ€ in order to get to her front door.
- The attempts of â€œreporters and photographers to gain illegal entry to her homeâ€ and the calls to police that followed.
- The â€œsubstantial bribesâ€ offered by papers to her ex-boyfriend.
- And the â€œbombardment of nearly every friend, co-worker, and loved one in her lifeâ€.
The statement said: â€œSince he was young, Prince Harry has been very aware of the warmth that has been extended to him by members of the public. He feels lucky to have so many people supporting him and knows what a fortunate and privileged life he leads. He is also aware that there is significant curiosity about his private life.
â€œHe has never been comfortable with this, but he has tried to develop a thick skin about the level of media interest that comes with it. He has rarely taken formal action on the very regular publication of fictional stories that are written about him and he has worked hard to develop a professional relationship with the media, focused on his work and the issues he cares about.
â€œBut the past week has seen a line crossed.â€
A source at one tabloid newspaper said it had not been engaged in nightly battles with palace lawyers, as Prince Harryâ€™s statement suggests.