Oprah Winfrey’s production company has defended the controversial montage of headlines used in ‘Oprah with Meghan and Harry’, claiming the programme’s depiction of the Daily Mail is “either literally true… or substantially true”.
Associated Newspapers, the publisher of the Daily Mail and Mail Online, believes the Meghan Markle headlines used to demonstrate UK press racism in the interview were misleading.
British broadcaster ITV removed five headlines from its version of the interview after these concerns were raised.
Associated Newspapers has sent legal letters to both CBS and Winfrey’s Harpo Productions demanding that they follow ITV in amending the montage.
But Harpo’s legal representative has now responded by making clear the production company does not intend to amend the headlines montage.
In a letter sent on Tuesday 30 March, seen by Press Gazette, Charles L Babcock of Jackson Walker LLP told Associated Newspapers that Harpo believes “the issue of racism in the British tabloid press is a matter of public concern and that the Prince and Duchess are legally entitled to their opinions on that subject and their respective opinions were fairly presented in the published interview”.
He added that the “portrayal of the Daily Mail in the montage you complain about was either literally true (“EXCLUSIVE: Harry’s girl is (almost) straight outta Compton: Gang-scarred home of her mother revealed-so will he be dropping by for tea?”) or substantially true that is, it was not materially false.
“Harpo will not change the montage.”
Associated Newspapers responded on Thursday 1 April by accusing Harpo of betraying viewers’ trust by broadcasting “faked” Meghan Markle headlines.
Group editorial legal director Elizabeth Hartley said: “I have stressed in each of my letters that this is an issue of accuracy and integrity. It is a betrayal of viewers’ trust to broadcast faked images. It is not our concern, but it also does nothing for your client’s reputation and the credibility of its programme content.”
The letter set out three instances of Harpo “fake editing” Daily Mail headlines, and nine examples in which foreign publication headlines were “masquerading” as British press headlines.
The Telegraph first highlighted how a third of the headlines used to demonstrate British press racism in the interview were taken from non-UK gossip magazines. In other cases, headlines used to allege racial bias in UK newspapers were found to be reports exposing racial slurs made by others.
Hartley added: “Your client’s unwillingness to remove these false headlines and attributions, and it appears that there were more, speaks volumes. There is never any justification for falsifying content and, if their views were correct, it would not be necessary to deploy such underhand tactics.”
CBS does not appear to have responded to Associated Newspapers’ concerns. The US broadcaster has ignored various requests for comment from Press Gazette.
ITV, which broadcast the interview in the UK, removed five headlines from the montage in its version of the interview.
‘Oprah with Meghan and Harry’: The media aftermath
Nearly a month after ‘Oprah with Meghan and Harry’ was broadcast, and the interview is still making waves in the UK media. See Press Gazette’s timeline below.
Sunday, 7 March
CBS broadcasts interview in the US
Monday, 8 March
UK’s Society of Editors issues statement saying “the UK media is not bigoted”
Tuesday, 9 March
Editors of the Guardian and Financial Times are among the first to speak out against the Society of Editors statement
Piers Morgan resigns from ITV’s Good Morning Britain amid an Ofcom investigation into his comments on the Oprah interview
Wednesday, 10 March
Society of Editors boss Ian Murray resigns amid backlash to “not bigoted” statement
Friday, 12 March
Daily Mail publisher Associated Newspapers asks CBS to remove misleading headlines from montage used in interview to demonstrate UK press racism
Harpo Productions says: “We stand by the broadcast in its entirety.”
Saturday, 13 March
ITV removes some headlines from its version of the interview
Monday, 15 March
CBS report accuses UK tabloids of “blatant” racial element as it refuses to alter Meghan headlines montage
Wednesday, 17 March
More than 57,000 people have now complained to Ofcom about comments made by Piers Morgan on Good Morning Britain about Harry and Meghan’s interview with Oprah Winfrey – making it the most complained about programme ever
Thursday, 18 March
Associated Newspapers accuses ViacomCBS of adopting “the behaviour of an ostrich” in response to use of “misleading” press headlines in Meghan/Harry interview
Friday, 19 March
Ofcom receives more than 4,000 complaints over ITV’s Harry and Meghan interview
Society of Editors postpones Press Awards amid backlash to “not bigoted” comment
Friday, 26 March
Eleanor Mills resigns from Society of Editors board and condemns ‘structural racism’ in UK media
Tuesday, 30 March
Former BBC special correspondent turned journalism professor Kurt Barling writes for Press Gazette on bigotry and the UK media: Racism exists everywhere, even in newsrooms
Wednesday, 31 March
Writing for Press Gazette, former Times night editor Liz Gerard investigates press bigotry and the claim Meghan Markle coverage was racist
Thursday, 1 April
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Photo credit: Harpo Productions/Joe Pugliese via Getty Images