A British media regulator cleared Piers Morgan in an investigation sparked by controversial comments it made about Meghan, the Duchess of Sussex, during an episode of ITV’s “Good Morning Britain”.
In March, the Office of Communications announced that it was investigating the newscast as part of its “harm and crime rules” after receiving more than 50,000 complaints about Morgan’s remarks on Meghan and Prince Harry’s interview with Oprah Winfrey.
The month-long investigation concluded on Wednesday when the office found that Morgan’s comments did not violate his broadcasting rules.
“This was a balanced decision. Mr Morgan’s comments were potentially harmful and offensive to viewers, and we recognize the strong public response to them. But we have also fully respected freedom of expression,” the bureau said in a statement .
“Our rules allow broadcasters to raise controversial opinions as part of a legitimate public interest debate, and the strong contestation of Mr. Morgan by other contributors provided viewers with important context.”
The office added that it had reminded ITV to “exercise more care” when its program included discussions of mental health and suicide.
“ITV could consider using timely warnings or signposting support services to ensure viewers are properly protected,” the bureau said in a statement.
During the March 8 episode, Morgan said he was “sick” of Meghan and Prince Harry’s interview with Winfrey and called it a “trash-a-thon” of the monarchy. Morgan, known to have publicly attacked the Duchess, criticized the couple for throwing a “racing bomb” over an alleged conversation in which a family member questioned how dark their children’s skin would be.
Morgan also hinted that he didn’t believe Meghan when she described her having thoughts of suicide.
“I don’t believe a word you say Meghan Markle,” Morgan said during the broadcast. “I wouldn’t believe it if she read me a weather report and the fact that she launched this attack on our royal family is despicable.”
Following backlash to his comments and the announcement of an investigation by the office, ITV said Morgan had decided to leave the show.
ITV did not immediately return a request for comment on Wednesday. The broadcaster celebrated the news in a series of tweets.
“I am pleased that OFCOM has confirmed my right not to believe the allegations made by the Duke and Duchess of Sussex against Oprah Winfrey, many of which have been proven to be untrue,” said Morgan tweeted. “This is an overwhelming victory for free speech and an overwhelming defeat for Princess Pinocchios.”
He added, “Am I getting my job back?”
The Office of Communications released a 97-page report detailing its findings and said the majority of the complaints received identified Morgan’s comments as harmful and offensive.
A significant number of viewers said Morgan’s remarks on rejecting Meghan’s suicidal report could potentially lead people to seek help for fear of not being taken seriously, the report said.
Many people referred to his comments as “harmful rhetoric” that “made suicide a mockery”. Others complained that Morgan’s belittling of Meghan’s personal account of racism was very offensive and “incited hatred and racism.”
More than 800 people sent the office messages in support of Morgan, the report said.
The bureau said its investigation found that the show “contained sufficient challenges to provide adequate protection and context for its viewers” regarding Morgan’s remarks on mental health and suicide.
When it came to Morgan’s comments on the breed, the bureau said his comments were “sufficiently contextualized”.
“Therefore, our decision is that the program will not violate the Ofcom Broadcasting Code,” the report said.
The office went on in the report that Morgan “had the right to say that he did not believe the Duke and Duchess of Sussex’s allegations and that he held and expressed strong views that rigorously challenged their portrayals”.
“The Code allows individuals to express strong and argued views, including potentially harmful or highly offensive views, and broadcasters can include these views on their programs. Restricting such views would, in our opinion, be an unjustified and appalling restriction on the freedom of expression of both the broadcaster and the audience. “