A column in The Sun tabloid that fantasized about seeing Prince Harry’s wife, Meghan, being pelted with feces as she was paraded naked through the streets was sexist, Britain’s press watchdog found.
The column by TV personality Jeremy Clarkson in December described how he hated the Duchess of Sussex “on a cellular level.” He said she used “vivid bedroom promises” to turn Harry into a “warrior of woke” and controlled him like a sock puppet.
“The imagery employed by the columnist in this article was humiliating and degrading toward the duchess,” said Edward Faulks, chairman of the Independent Press Standards Organisation. “IPSO’s purpose is to protect the public and freedom of expression by upholding high editorial standards. In this case, The Sun failed to meet these standards.”
The independent organization, which most U.K. newspapers, magazines and digital news outlets voluntarily commit to be regulated by, found that multiple “pejorative and prejudicial” references to Meghan’s sex breached its editors’ code.
“Stereotypes about women using their sexuality to exert influence … implied that it was the duchess’s sexuality — rather than any other attribute or accomplishment — which was the source of her power,” the findings said.
The article inspired a record number of complaints to the regulator, which required the newspaper to inform its readers of the findings released late Friday.
The newspaper printed a headline “Jeremy Clarkson: IPSO Upholds Complaint” at the bottom of its front page Saturday and directed readers to a summary of the report where Clarkson’s column typically appears on page 17. The newspaper had removed the column and apologized in December.
Clarkson, who made his name as the combative host of the BBC car show “Top Gear” and hosts motoring show “The Grand Tour” on Amazon, previously said he was “horrified” after the blowback. He apologized and promised to be more careful.
Clarkson’s daughter had been among those who blasted the column. “I stand against everything that my dad wrote about Meghan Markle and I remain standing in support of those that are targeted with online hatred,” Emily Clarkson posted on Instagram.
Jeremy Clarkson said the image of him dreaming of Meghan being publicly shamed was a “clumsy reference” to a scene in “Game of Thrones.”
The column followed the release of a six-part Netflix documentary about Harry and Meghan’s acrimonious split from the British royal family. The couple quit royal duties and moved to California in 2020, citing a lack of support from the palace and racist press treatment of Meghan, who is biracial.
The press regulator rejected complaints that the column was inaccurate or harassed Meghan or discriminated against her on the basis of race.
Harry had called the article “horrific, hurtful and cruel” and said the column would encourage misogyny.
Meghan did not formally complain about the report but didn’t object to the investigation launched after the Fawcett Society, a gender equality group, and Wilde Foundation, a charity supporting female abuse victims, filed complaints.
The Fawcett Society hailed the findings, which were the first by IPSO to uphold complaints of sexism.
“This landmark decision is a real opportunity for our media to catch up with what women have known for years — misogyny and hate are not acceptable and they can no longer be dressed up as satire or banter,” said Jemima Olchawski, chief executive of the Fawcett Society.