Prince Harry’s decision to attack the British press for introducing “racial overtones” into the reporting of his relationship with an American actor was made because he had never before witnessed such a “degree of pressure, scrutiny and harassment” from the media.
Kensington Palace sources said that the prince feared for the safety of Meghan Markle and her family after they were “subjected to a wave of abuse” during newspaper investigations into what, until Tuesday, had been an unconfirmed relationship.An unprecedented statement, authorised by Harry, also complained of “a smear on the front page” of one newspaper about Markle and that her lawyers were engaged in “nightly legal battles to keep defamatory stories out of papers”.
Palace sources added that police had to be called last week after a photographer allegedly barged into the actor’s garage in Toronto.The front page “smear” complained of in Harry’s statement referred to the Sun’s piece about clips of Markle in network television drama Suits appearing on Pornhub, an adult website. It was headlined “Harry girl’s on Pornhub” even though what was posted were clips of intimate scenes from the programme, and not pornography.
The Sun strongly denied any smear and said it made clear that the “steamy sex scenes” it had referred to appearing on the adult site were from her appearances in the US drama series.However sources told the Guardian that reporters from the Sun were pulled back from trying to conduct “doorstep” interviews on Friday amid concerns about the behaviour of the US media, and that the Pornhub story was removed from the Sun’s website on Friday after some critical comments.
But what has particularly shocked Harry is the “dangerous relationship” in which newspaper reports and comment pieces that he considers racist and sexist sparked a torrent of vitriol against Markle on Twitter and other social media platforms as well as in comment sections below online news stories.Markle’s father, Thomas, is white and her mother, Doria Ragland, African-American, and she has written about her heritage on her website, describing herself as biracial and “half black and half white”, which has been referenced in many articles about their new relationship.
The Palace is understood to have been particularly unhappy with one comment piece in last weekend’s Mail on Sunday, by Rachel Johnson, which said that if the couple had children, “the Windsors will thicken their watery, thin blue blood and Spencer pale skin and ginger hair with some rich and exotic DNA”.“Some of this has been very public,” the palace’s statement said. “The smear on the front page of a national newspaper; the racial undertones of comment pieces; and the outright sexism and racism of social media trolls and web article comments.”
The palace also complained of the “bombardment of nearly every friend, co-worker, and loved one in her life” and the harassment of her mother at her home in Los Angeles, who has had to “struggle past photographers in order to get to her front door”.
“Given what she was going through in the press and what was happening privately, Harry no longer felt it was acceptable for someone in his position to sit quietly,” a palace source said. “This is happening because of him, not her. The traditional no-comment position no longer felt acceptable to him.
“Once it was clear last week and through the weekend that this was accelerating and wasn’t washing through, then it was increasingly unacceptable in his mind to not add his voice. He is not naive. These stories will continue.
He just wants people who are reading these stories in the future to at least have his point of view in the back of their minds and to at least have heard from him about what he thinks about them.”
Among the other articles that concerned the palace because of their racial connotations was about a piece on DailyMail.com headlined “Harry’s girl is (almost) straight outta Compton” in a reference to the rap record by NWA.
The prince is also concerned that now that he is 32, the press will consider that any girl he has a relationship with “may be ‘the one’ and so they will get treated as fair game”.
“That is a very difficult place for any woman to be in, and being in a position where he is not able to protect her is a very serious concern for him,” the source added.
The Sun said it was taken aback by Harry’s statement and said his reference to legal battles, bribes or racial undertones was not a reference to the Rupert Murdoch-owned tabloid.
On Saturday, the Sun told readers that Markle’s background had more in common with the modern British family than those in the “fusty royal corridors” and was more relevant to the modern woman than the Duchess of Cambridge.
“Meghan, with her divorce, her ethnic background and fake-it-til-you-make-it work ethic is much more the 21st-century woman”, something “the future of the royal family may depend on”.
A source at the paper said Harry’s communications team failed to offer any guidance when reports emerged of their relationship first emerged in the Sunday Express last month. “They had three days to stop this story,” they said.
“Any decent press office would have put out a statement saying they were in a relationship, saying they have a right to privacy, etc, and that would have been that. But they didn’t.”
A source at the Daily Mail said they were bewildered by Harry’s reference to harassment, bribes and crossing a line. They said they did not know what his communications staff were referring to.
Katie Nicholl, royal correspondent for the Mail on Sunday, told LBC radio: “If he really wants this to go away, there is one or two things he could do. You give the press what they want. You make a statement, or you give an interview or you issue a picture.
There has not been one picture of them together. Fleet Street will not rest until they have got their picture of them together and they have got some words either from Prince Harry or Meghan about the relationship.”