‘Meghan wanted a deferential press – we said no’

The Sun’s Dan Wootton on why we need to hold the royals to account.

spiked

The news of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle’s decision to move to Canada and step back from their royal duties has dominated the news cycle. Dan Wootton, executive editor of the Sun, broke the story last Wednesday. Since ‘Megxit’ came to light, many commentators have sought to blame the tabloids for the couple’s decision. Critics of the press say its coverage has been unfair, bullying and even racist. But is there any justification for this press-bashing? spiked caught up with Wootton to get his view.

spiked: What do you make of this claim that the press was to blame for Megxit?

Dan Wootton: The people who have been blaming the press are a predictable, vocal minority. It’s the likes of Hugh Grant – who was prepared to use the death of a princess to make a political point. I don’t think many people should worry about what he has to say. In fact, in this country at least, I think the public has realised that there are a whole load of factors at play. I don’t get the feeling that most people are simply blaming the press.

spiked: Has the coverage of Meghan and Harry been unfair?

Wootton: I don’t buy this. Harry and Meghan got great coverage when Meghan joined the royal family. I have thought a lot about their wedding day in 2018. That was such a euphoric day for the country. I hadn’t really felt a day like that in London since the 2012 Olympics. It really did bring the country together. There was so much hope about what Meghan would potentially bring to the royal family. At the Sun we even wrote an editorial on our hope that she would bring modernisation.

I don’t think the coverage has been unfair. The coverage has been critical when it needed to be critical. For example, last year there was a real turning point when Harry and Meghan were preaching about climate change, and the press then revealed they had taken four private-jet flights in 11 days. On the Sussexes’ website, one of the things that they now concede is that they are not going to take private jets anymore. That’s the job of the press. We have got to hold the rich and powerful to account. But any idea that the press wants to drive Harry and Meghan out of the country is just ridiculous.

spiked: Do they just want to escape scrutiny?

Wootton: Absolutely. Meghan wants a Hollywood press. And given my background in showbiz, I know exactly what a Hollywood press entails. It entails a real lack of scrutiny, glowing coverage, choosing who interviews you, when they interview you, and from what publication. In a lot of cases in Hollywood it involves allowing celebrities to approve copy and even remove quotes from interviews. That’s the kind of coverage they want.

I think it’s great that the British press has said no, that’s not what you’re going to get from us. You’re going to get fair coverage and you’re going to get honest coverage.

Meghan is not just a celebrity, she’s taking public funding. We all know how much Frogmore Cottage cost the British public to renovate. The royals need coverage that’s going to keep them honest and put them under scrutiny.

spiked: How might Meghan and Harry’s decision to quit the ‘royal rota’ system – whereby preferred journalists have access to the royals – affect them?

Wootton: To be honest, it just makes me laugh. Some journalists are part of the royal rota. I’m not. And yet I’ve probably broken more stories about Harry and Meghan over the past two years than any other journalist in the UK.

If anything, being part of the royal-rota system gave them a level of protection when it comes to photographs, in particular. There are lots of photographs that the British press will not use. I was in New Zealand when I broke the story. I was looking at the magazines there, and they were using paparazzi pictures of the royals that I hadn’t even seen. If certain pictures are offered to our picture desk they will be immediately turned down. We’re now very careful about the circumstances in which paparazzi pictures are used of the royals. For example, there is an agreement that we don’t run pictures of the royal children, unless they are at an official event, without the approval of the royal family.

spiked: Some people say the press has been more critical of Meghan than of Prince Andrew. Is that true?

Wootton: This is utterly ridiculous. I feel very passionately about this because, without the press, the Prince Andrew and Jeffrey Epstein scandal would never have been revealed. The News of the World, in 2011 when I was working there, spent a lot of time and money getting those pictures of Prince Andrew walking through Central Park with Jeffrey Epstein. Those pictures were all over our front page. And it was only those pictures that revealed that Prince Andrew had actually continued his friendship with Epstein, even after he’d been to jail.

So not only was the whole Epstein scandal uncovered by the press in the first place, but also you can look at the columns that have been given to the Prince Andrew scandal over the past year – it has been a huge story, especially since Epstein’s suicide. Without that coverage and scrutiny, it’s very unlikely that Prince Andrew would have been forced by the queen to step down from his royal role. This idea that the press has somehow gone easy on Prince Andrew is a total lie.

spiked: What about the coverage of Meghan compared to Kate Middleton?

Wootton: I would say that’s not really a correct comparison because Kate has always been someone who is prepared to follow the rules. She knows what her role is. She wants to be part of the royal family and she doesn’t want to rock the boat.

I think it’s much more appropriate to compare the treatment and the coverage that Meghan had in Britain with Princess Diana, with Sarah Ferguson, with Camilla Parker-Bowles and with Sophie Wessex. The idea that any of those princesses got easier treatment than Meghan is laughable.

I was on The Media Show this week with Robert Hardman from the Daily Mail, who was the royal correspondent at the Telegraph when Princess Diana was still alive. He is one of many people who says the treatment of Meghan has been on a totally different level of kindness and understanding compared to what Princess Diana went through on a daily basis. I’m not excusing what Princess Diana went through – I was a teenager at the time and a massive fan of hers. But the whole industry took a good hard look at itself after the death of Diana and made a lot of changes.

Dan Wootton was talking to Fraser Myers.

To enquire about republishing spiked’s content, a right to reply or to request a correction, please contact the managing editor, Viv Regan.

Comments

Eva Prior

23rd January 2020 at 2:44 pm

This whole article is a complete fallacy. Mr. and Mrs. Hewitt and all the other members of Britains biggest benefits family are treated with sycophantic deference by the MSM.

If any of them were actually held to account then in a so called democratic country the positions they unfairly occupy would have been vigorously challenged by the MSM and led to them being disestablished by now. Instead, brown-nosing articles are churned out almost daily praising a woman who has done nothing but mooched on luxury and looked after herself and hers from cradle to grave on the backs of hardworking taxpayers.

Even now, the MSM have deflected away from the real issues at the heart of this saga to present it as ‘poor’ (in every sense of the word) Bet and Lip and family vs ‘bad’ Mr. and Mrs. Hewitt.

The MSM needs to relentlessly highlight that one of the richest families in this country is allowed to claim obscene amounts of benefits, and ask why it is lauded for doing so? Until this matter is at the heart of every article about this family by the MSM, it cannot claim to be holding it to account, and it’s a fallacy to call this country democratic.

Ian Davies

20th January 2020 at 7:37 am

I see the Telegraph still allows no comments in any of the H&M saga. This must be what it takes to be a preferred news outlet for the “royals”, don’t let the proles have any voice or opinion on the matter. People seem to be surprised at the robust position taken by the Family, they have no choice or uproar would ensue. But it does not go far enough. This pair have made it abundantly clear that they wish to trip around the world generating income for their own account, therefore the UK taxpayer should have no liability at all for them. No security, no Duchy funds, no UK accommodation, nothing. They pay for everything out of their newfound “financial independence:. If the Queen is concerned for their safety let her pay for the security out of her current allowance.

jan mozelewski

19th January 2020 at 11:04 am

When one does a search for any News item via Google its almost always all the usual suspects of left/globalist/neo-liberal persuasion that hog the first few pages. The ones you mention…plus the online ones like Huff etc.
it may have seemed like a good wheeze for this lot to saturate the media, especially for a young person who sources most of their content (if not all) online…but it has gone too far. It is now a full-blown echo-chamber and it has become totally disconnected from the mainstream. hence the media constantly getting major things ‘wrong’, specifically at election time.

Brandy Cluster

18th January 2020 at 9:27 pm

Avoid the BBC, ABC (Australia), the New York Times and Washington Post if you want intelligent, balanced news and journalism. These sites are all activist, posing as representing the people. The job of newspapers is NOT to represent ANYBODY but the NATION ITSELF.

Filbert Flange

18th January 2020 at 9:22 pm

Darn, I was looking forward to ridiculing all the sycophants that bowed and curtseyed to their “royal” arses. Now let’s see how megs does without the regal imprimatur.

My guess is she will fade fast as she isn’t a 17 year old swedish neurotic and nowhere near black enough to garner much sympathy with actual black folk.

I’m willing to take bets on precisely what she and that dolt son of a horseman do to warrant the a-list celebrity status they both so fervently desire. The field is already choked with players.

Filbert Flange

18th January 2020 at 9:27 pm

I’ll start the bidding with “sexually abused, non-binary climate protesters”, but it will be harry that has to dress like rupaul.

K Tojo

18th January 2020 at 1:14 pm

This “free press” thingy that journalists are so proud, nay boastful of, needs a bit of critical attention. Politicians come and go but established journalists seem to go on forever, acting as virtual political arbiters “speaking truth to power” and all that.

The broadcast media especially is riddled with time-servers. As an example, tomorrow morning, and every Sunday, another politician or two will be hauled before Andrew Marr to give account of themselves. Marr is presented by the BBC as a though his interviews were a vital part of the democratic process. Is he supposed to represent “the people”? He certainly does not speak for me.

It would be useful to know what influence these established elder statesmen of radio and TV have on public opinon. They certainly seem to draw the admiration of other journalists. Widespread uncritical admiration for recently retired radio journalist John Humprhys is a case in point as is the reverence granted by the MSM to every utterance of documentary maker David Attenborough.

Still, if news editors refuse to be gagged by celebrities I guess that’s some sort of display of press freedom however trivial.

Michael Lynch

18th January 2020 at 11:21 am

The Free Press, even with all its idiosyncrasies and inconsistencies, is absolutely necessary in a free society. It is the only defense against the rich and powerful and it is the only thing that can prevent the rise of autocracy.

ZENOBIA PALMYRA

18th January 2020 at 12:34 pm

You already have a tyranny – the tyranny of the majority.

Brandy Cluster

18th January 2020 at 9:28 pm

Doah!!

John Lewis

18th January 2020 at 8:17 am

Correct about the New York Post supporting PDJT however one out of the ten publications listed hardly indicates an overall balance.

I would be interested to know the criteria applied by Forbes in compiling this list. Also what is CSO?

silly billy

18th January 2020 at 5:58 am

As the author is an entitled white male, I believe he is currently disbarred from holding an opinion on anything.

Philip Humphrey

18th January 2020 at 7:20 am

There was a really magic moment last night on BBC’s Question Time. The actor Laurence Fox was accused by a leftie “race and diversity” lecturer of being “a white priveleged male” when he disagreed with her. He rolled his eyes and then (quite correctly) pointed out that he couldn’t help the way he was born and that she was the real racist.

silly billy

18th January 2020 at 10:27 am

And sexist….

Michael Lynch

18th January 2020 at 11:12 am

Yes, it was a wonderful counter to the ridiculous assertion of white male privilege. Notice how convenient it was for the BBC to have someone like that in the audience though? Probably to protect Shami, who seems intent on carrying on with Labour’s diversity dribble. She loves playing the victim that one and I wonder how she can claim that a country that has made her a baroness can be so racist. Lawrence, however, has been reprimanded by the actors guild in the press for his common sense. I’m not sure why they think it’s their place to decide who is racist or sexist.

a watson

18th January 2020 at 10:48 am

Many of the educational facilities in London encourage the prejudice of ‘white privileged males’ to their first and second generation immigrant users. Encouraged by their mainly labour councils and financiers to use this as a means to make them dislike English culture and create conflict – scarily it appears to be working.

Aunty Podes

17th January 2020 at 10:35 pm

Oh – where did he go? He whitewashed himself out of the picture.
What a saintly reporter he is – NOT!
The press thrive on trivial nooze about slebs – the more salacious the better. They muck-rake and exaggerate all in the name of the head line and the bottom line. Just as long as it sells papers …

ZENOBIA PALMYRA

17th January 2020 at 6:56 pm

Time for ALL the Windsors to leave the country. We must end this anti-democratic charade. The Windsors might like to consider permanent retirement on Tristan da Cunha. I’m sure their retirement would be very comfortable given their vast assets and even Napoleon found some happiness on St Helena.

VOX POPULI VOX DEI

Tim Wheeler

17th January 2020 at 5:48 pm

I come from the standpoint of scepticism about Royals. Putting myself in Harry & Meghan’s shoes, I’d get out as fast as I could. It’s no fun living your life in the crosshairs of The Sun – having your every action scrutinised and criticised ad-infinitum as you swim round and round a gilded goldfish bowl. Not everyone can live like The Queen. Harry is ONLY 6th in succession. It just doesn’t matter to most people as much as it matters to The Sun (to whom they represent an endless feast of attention-grabbing headlines and front pages.)

Major Bonkers

18th January 2020 at 6:23 pm

The third page is usually pretty attention-grabbing as well.

nick hunt

17th January 2020 at 5:08 pm

Leftists defending royals and privilege against the oiks, because Meghan is black? Too much! So could leftists ever say that black critics of Harry were racist? Of course not, which also tells us they are the real racists, and fully blind to their own bigotry.

Brandy Cluster

17th January 2020 at 9:05 pm

Fashionable bigotry is the schtick of the modern Left. It’s the oiks who are far less bigoted because they are all busy working and trying make ends meet. Oikophobes are over-paid, indulged, narcissistic and time rich. Like the not-very-bright Harry and Meghan (Ginger and Megs, as I call them).

Jonnie Henly

18th January 2020 at 10:42 am

“I’m too busy working, I don’t have time to be a bigot”.

Not sure there are many people in the world who feel that way.

Bella Donna

18th January 2020 at 2:29 pm

Good comment well said. All these claims of racism from black or those of mixed blood whingeing about white privilege should take a breather if we were racist as they claim we wouldn’t allow them in the country let alone allow them jobs in government or the House of Lords! My patience is wearing thin as I am sure are many others. They should be careful of what may happen as a result of their unfair and abusive criticism.

Brandy Cluster

18th January 2020 at 9:19 pm

@Johnnie Henley: Fashionable bigotry is the prerogative of the affluent. That’s what I was talking about. Ordinary bigotry is available to everyone anytime, but it’s the DAMAGING fashionable bigotry which is proving so resilient to criticism. And this is very worrying because reputations are being destroyed. Got it now?

Jonnie Henly

20th January 2020 at 12:52 am

If “fashionable bigotry” is resistant to criticism, then maybe you need to re consider whether it deserves the label of bigotry at all.

Bigotry isn’t resistant to criticism.

Jonnie Henly

17th January 2020 at 3:20 pm

The press are the only ones who have gotten so worked up about Harry and Meghan. The major of the country has more important things to worry about.
The hysterical nature of the press coverage of this whole saga only makes them appear more out of touch. No wonder their readership figures continue to plummet.

Filbert Flange

17th January 2020 at 3:35 pm

Oh, how the left has fallen… They are now in bed with banks, corporations and the royal crime family! One can actually see the footprints on the backs of the working poor, now that they occupy the very heights of privilege and obscene wealth. Shame on you!

And it’s a laugh when the entitled ingrates say they won’t take private jets anymore. No, they will simply empty out an entire commercial flight and stick minimum wage earners worth the bill. Farcical.

Filbert Flange

17th January 2020 at 3:42 pm

Markle had an entire twin otter to herself to flit across from the island to collect her gold and diamond encrusted bauble. This is the degraded left’s kinda people!

Jonnie Henly

17th January 2020 at 4:48 pm

Since when have the left been in bed with any of those groups?

The left is hoping this saga will bring down the whole royal family. If that’s what being “in bed with” counts as to you then you need to pick up a dictionary.

Jonnie Henly

17th January 2020 at 4:49 pm

It is fun being a left winger though. You can be accused of being too hard on bankers and corporations and also if being hand in hand with them. At the same time!

ZENOBIA PALMYRA

17th January 2020 at 6:58 pm

‘Left’ and ‘Right’ are shifting terms that mean very little unless closely defined… Most people don’t fit into neat categories. Anybody supporting the existence of the NHS would be considered a socialist in America but here even most of the Tories support it (at least in public).

Jim Lawrie

17th January 2020 at 2:40 pm

“without the press, the Prince Andrew and Jeffrey Epstein scandal would never have been revealed.” – that is how a press press strikes fear into the hearts of the rich and powerful. That what they do when people aren’t looking will be revealed if it attests to hypocrisy. A test applied by The Tabloids, who are often made out to be only purveyors of gossip obtained by infringing on privacy.

nick hunt

17th January 2020 at 6:50 pm

i don’t see the corporate press striking fear into the hearts of rich and powerful Democrats, gien that most of their journalists are married to democrats. But I do see them convincing much of the US that they are fake news. Here’s a list by Forbes:

1. Newsday
2. The New York Times
3. The Washington Post
4. The New York Post
5. Los Angeles Times
6. New York Daily News
7. USA Today
8. The Boston Globe
9. CSO
10. Chicago Tribune

All of these are rigidly anti-Trump. So is the list or others also fake news? Check Forbes methodology and compare for yourself

Brandy Cluster

17th January 2020 at 9:05 pm

Say it like it is: this is the hate media. Period.

Jonnie Henly

17th January 2020 at 11:09 pm

Since when has the New York Post been “rigidly anti Trump”?

Jim Lawrie

18th January 2020 at 6:31 pm

I quoted a specific example, I don’t see how your reply relates to ny post.

Brandy Cluster

18th January 2020 at 9:24 pm

The NYT is devolved into an activist rag sans any credibility; it launched anti-Jordan Peterson campaigns, viciously attacked Australia over the recent fires by publishing an essay from a known communist hater (Richard Flanagan) and if you both to check out its ‘news’ items it is mostly all about how bad Trump is. I say again, they’re losing all the elections so this is entirely counterproductive. Activism is activism and journalism is journalism and never the twain shall meet. Have a look at these Twitter comments from Dr. Bret Weinstein – a victim of campus fashionable bigotry. There are also interviews on Dr. Weinstein’s blog where you’ll find his very revealing comments on the appalling state of the American mainstream media, such as the NYT:

https://twitter.com/bretweinstein/status/1192933093637672962

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