A Jeremy Clarkson column about Prince Harry and Meghan in The Sun newspaper was sexist, a press watchdog has ruled.
The column – headlined “One day, Harold the glove puppet will tell the truth about A Woman Talking B*******” – contained a “pejorative and prejudicial reference” to the sex of the Duchess of Sussex, the Independent Press Standards Organisation (IPSO) said.
Clarkson, 63, wrote in December last year: “I hate her. Not like I hate Nicola Sturgeon or Rose West. I hate her on a cellular level.”
He told how he lies awake at night “dreaming of the day when she is made to parade naked through the streets of every town in Britain while crowds chant, ‘Shame!’ and throw lumps of excrement at her” – claiming “everyone who’s my age thinks the same way”.
“But what makes me despair,” he added, “is that younger people, especially girls, think she’s pretty cool.”
The article, published on 16 December 2022, saw IPSO deluged by more than 25,000 complaints from the public – the highest number it has ever received.
It was a “serious breach” of Clause 12 (Discrimination) of the Editors’ Code of Practice – a set of rules newspaper and magazines who are members of IPSO have agreed to follow – the watchdog said on Friday.
However, separate complaints that the article was inaccurate, harassed the Duchess and discriminated against her on the grounds of her race were not upheld.
IPSO chairman, Lord Faulks, said of the ruling: “We found that the imagery employed by the columnist in this article was humiliating and degrading toward the Duchess.”
The Sun “failed to meet the high editorial standards” expected by IPSO, he added.
Further explaining why the column was sexist, the IPSO complaints committee ruled: “Specifically: the writer’s claim that the Duchess exercised power via her sexual hold over her husband which, in the view of the Committee, was a reference to stereotypes about women using their sexuality to gain power.
“[It] also implied that it was the Duchess’ sexuality – rather than any other attribute or accomplishment – which was the source of her power.
“To argue that a woman is in a position of influence due to ‘vivid bedroom promises’, to compare the hatred of an individual to other women only, and to reference a fictional scene of public humiliation given to a sexually manipulative woman, read as a whole, amounted to a breach of Clause 12 (i).”
Harry and Meghan have left Frogmore Cottage
Harry is ‘doing really well’, close friend David Furnish says
A history of Prince Harry vs the paparazzi
The ruling added: “The Editors’ Code of Practice protects the right of commentators to challenge, to shock, be satirical and entertain, but it states that the press must avoid discriminatory references towards an individual.
“By holding publications to account, we promote the standards of journalism set out in the Editors’ Code of Practice.
“We will take action where these standards are not met, such as in this article which contained pejorative and prejudicial language in an article discussing a woman.”
‘I’ve rather put my foot in it’
Clarkson issued a grovelling response at the time after his own daughter, Emily, was among thousands who condemned his comments.
He tweeted: “Oh dear. I’ve rather put my foot in it. In a column I wrote about Meghan, I made a clumsy reference to a scene in Game of Thrones and this has gone down badly with a great many people.
“I’m horrified to have caused so much hurt and I shall be more careful in future.”
The Sun also apologised after a huge backlash, saying it “regretted” publishing the column last December. It also removed it from its website and archives.
However, the Sussexes snubbed the apologies and suggested Clarkson has a track record of spreading “hate rhetoric”.
Now the tabloid has been ordered to inform its readers of the findings by publishing a summary written by IPSO on the same page where the column usually appears.
It must also be flagged on the front page of The Sun and on the homepage of its website.
IPSO investigated two specific complaints made by the charity The Fawcett Society, which campaigns for gender equality and women’s rights, and the WILDE Foundation, a platform created to help women, girls, and victims and survivors of abuse.
Both organisations said they were affected by breaches of the code.
In a statement, The Sun said: “After Jeremy Clarkson’s column was published in December, both The Sun and Jeremy Clarkson apologised. We said we regretted publishing the article and removed it from our website.
“The Sun accepts that with free expression comes responsibility.
“Half of The Sun’s readers are women and we have a very long and proud history of campaigning for women, which has changed the lives of many.
“The Sun is committed to its work campaigning to strengthen legislation on domestic abuse, helping to provide beds in refuges and empowering survivors of abuse to seek help. Our most recent campaign, Baby Bank on Us, is raising money to help women struggling with the alarming costs of living and a newborn baby.
“Ipso has ruled that The Sun published a column about the Duchess of Sussex which contained a pejorative and prejudicial reference to the duchess’s sex. The committee did not uphold separate elements of the complaint that the article was inaccurate, harassed the Duchess of Sussex, and included discriminatory references to her on the ground of race.
“The Sun is today publishing the summary of Ipso’s findings.”
The ruling comes as Prince Harry takes on the British press in a series of court battles.
Click to subscribe to the Sky News Daily wherever you get your podcasts
The Duke appeared in court weeks after he and the Duchess said they were involved in a “near catastrophic” car chase in New York involving paparazzi.