It is “not acceptable” for the Duke and Duchess of Sussex to claim sections of the UK press is bigoted, according to the Society of Editors.
The couple discussed their treatment by the media during their bombshell interview with Oprah Winfrey, which aired in the US on Sunday night.
The breakfast show CBS This Morning has since aired unseen footage from the interview, which went on for more than three hours, in which Winfrey asked if the couple left the UK because of racism.
Harry replied: “It was a large part of it.”
— CBS This Morning (@CBSThisMorning) March 8, 2021
He recalled a conversation he had at a charity fundraiser in which he was told that the UK is “very bigoted”, and he said he replied: “The UK is not bigoted, the UK press is bigoted, specifically the tabloids.”
He added: “But unfortunately if the source of information is inherently corrupt or racist or biased then that filters out to the rest of society.”
The Society of Editors has blasted the claim, saying: “The UK 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.
Executive director Ian Murray added: “It is not acceptable for the Duke and Duchess to make such claims without providing any supporting evidence.
“If it is simply the case the Sussexes feel that the press by questioning their actions and commenting on their roles when working as royals funded by the taxpayer were being racist then they are mistaken.
“In the case of Meghan Markle and her engagement and marriage to Prince Harry there was universal supporting coverage in the UK media which reflected the warmth shown to the couple by the British people.
“But that warmth could not and should not mean the press should be expected to refuse to report, investigate and comment on the couple’s lifestyle and actions.
“It is a pity the couple did not mention in their interview the huge support the UK media has shown to the charitable works carried out by the Duke and Duchess.
“The UK press also played a large role in ensuring the prince’s service in Afghanistan went ahead, agreeing to an embargo on reporting his deployment to enable him to carry out his Army role in the Middle East.
“The UK media has a proud record of calling out racism and also being at the forefront of campaigns to support mental health awareness, another of the issues raised by the couple.”
Mr Murray said it is “unreasonable” for the couple to “conflate the legitimate coverage provided by the edited and regulated UK media with the wild west of social media.”
He added: “It is strange indeed, that the couple have attacked the UK media previously for alleged intrusion into their private lives yet have opened up on several occasions to media in the US, the latest event being yesterday’s interview with Oprah Winfrey which will play to a world-wide audience.
“The UK media has never shied away from holding a spotlight up to those in positions of power, celebrity or influence. If sometimes the questions asked are awkward and embarrassing, then so be it, but the press is most certainly not racist.”
The Society of Editors previously criticised the couple after they severed all dealings with Britain’s tabloid press.
— Society of Editors UK (@EditorsUK) April 20, 2020
In a strongly-worded letter to the editors of the Sun, Daily Mirror, Daily Mail and Daily Express, Harry and Meghan said their new policy was “not about avoiding criticism” and that the media have every right to have an opinion on the couple, “good or bad”.
But the document went on to say: “What they won’t do is offer themselves up as currency for an economy of clickbait and distortion.”
Their stance was criticised by the Society of Editors, which said the couple’s “actions here amount to censorship”.