UK press body chief quits as Meghan racism claims roil media
Mar 11, 2021, 5:28 AM
(Joe Pugliese/Harpo Productions via AP, File)
LONDON (AP) — The head of a major British press organization has resigned over his response to Meghan and Harry’s television interview — the second senior U.K. media figure to leave amid a heated debate over the royal couple’s allegations of racism and bias.
Ian Murray said he was stepping down as executive director of the Society of Editors after issuing a statement that many felt downplayed the problem of racism in the media. —
Murray said late Wednesday that the statement, which accused Harry and Meghan of mounting an attack on the press, “could have been much clearer in its condemnation of bigotry and has clearly caused upset.”
“As executive director I lead the Society and as such must take the blame and so I have decided it is best for the board and membership that I step aside so that the organization can start to rebuild its reputation,” he said.
In the interview with Oprah Winfrey, Meghan and Harry spoke about the intense pressure of media scrutiny and suggested there was a racist element to coverage of the biracial duchess. Harry also said the British royal family was “scared” of the tabloid press, which he said exercised “control by fear.”
The Society of Editors, an umbrella group for almost 400 newspapers and other news outlets, released a strongly worded statement about the interview, saying “the U.K. media is not bigoted and will not be swayed from its vital role holding the rich and powerful to account following the attack on the press by the Duke and Duchess of Sussex.”
But some journalists disagreed. More than 160 reporters and editors signed a letter saying the Society of Editors was “in denial” about racism. Katherine Viner, editor of The Guardian, said media outlets needed to become “much more representative and more self-aware.”
ITV News presenter Charlene White pulled out of hosting the society’s annual Press Awards, saying the organization had asked her to get involved in order to improve its diversity, but failed to live up to its words.
“I only work with organizations who practice what they preach,” she said.
“Since the Black Lives Matter movement really took hold in the U.K. last year, every single institution in this country has had to finally look at its failings and its position in terms of how they treat ethnic minorities both inside and outside of its walls. But for some unknown reason, you feel as though the U.K. press is exempt in that discussion.”
Murray’s exit follows the departure of Piers Morgan from TV show “Good Morning Britain” amid an outcry over his comments about Meghan.
Morgan, a former tabloid editor, quit on Tuesday, a day after he said “I don’t believe a word she says” in reference to Meghan’s interview. The duchess told Winfrey that she was so miserable during her time as a working member of the royal family that she had suicidal thoughts, and claimed she had not received support from palace staff.
The U.K.’s media watchdog said it had received more than 41,000 complaints about Morgan’s comments.