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March 10, 2021updated 30 Sep 2022 10:06am

‘Freedom of speech is a hill I’m prepared to die on’, says Piers Morgan, as he leaves GMB

By William Turvill

Piers Morgan has left Good Morning Britain (GMB) but insisted it was an “amicable” exit and that he and ITV had “agreed to disagree”.

The broadcaster said in a statement on Tuesday: “Following discussions with ITV, Piers Morgan has decided now is the time to leave Good Morning Britain. ITV has accepted this decision and has nothing further to add.”

The announcement comes after broadcast regulator Ofcom launched an investigation into comments made by Morgan about Meghan Markle on the programme on Monday. Ofcom received around 41,000 complaints.

Morgan said this morning on Twitter: “On Monday, I said I didn’t believe Meghan Markle in her Oprah interview. I’ve had time to reflect on this opinion, and I still don’t. If you did, OK. Freedom of speech is a hill I’m happy to die on. Thanks for all the love, and hate. I’m off to spend more time with my opinions.”

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Speaking to reporters outside his home on Wednesday morning he added: “I had a good chat with ITV and we agreed to disagree. I’m just going to take it easy and see how we go.

“I believe in freedom of speech, I believe in the right to be allowed to have an opinion. If people want to believe Meghan Markle, that’s entirely their right.

“I don’t believe almost anything that comes out of her mouth and I think the damage she’s done to the British monarchy and to the Queen at a time when Prince Philip is lying in hospital is enormous and frankly contemptible.

“If I have to fall on my sword for expressing an honestly-held opinion about Meghan Markle and that diatribe of bilge that she came out with in that interview, so be it.”

[Read more: Bigoted UK press? Guardian and FT editors call for reflection in industry]

On Monday’s show, after watching a clip of Markle discussing her mental health and suicidal thoughts in her interview with Oprah Winfrey, Morgan said: “I’m sorry, I don’t believe a word she says. I wouldn’t believe her if she read me a weather report.”

During Tuesday’s show, he attempted to clarify his comments. He said: “When we talked about this yesterday, I said as an all-encompassing thing I don’t believe what Meghan Markle is saying generally in this interview, and I still have serious concerns about the veracity of a lot of what she said.

“But let me just state on the record my position about mental illness and on suicide. These are clearly extremely serious things that should be taken extremely seriously, and if someone is feeling that way they should get the treatment and help they need every time.”

He also stormed off the set of Good Morning Britain after co-presenter Alex Beresford criticised his treatment of Markle.

Ex-BBC presenter Andrew Neil, who is now chairman of upcoming new channel GB News, told BBC Radio 4’s PM he wants to talk to Morgan about potentially signing him up.

“I think Piers Morgan would be a great asset to GB News and we’ll certainly talk to him about it,” Neil said.

“I think he needs a little period of quiet reflection before anything happens. And I wouldn’t simply transfer what he did at GMB straight to GB News, I think we’d probably want to do something a bit different.”

Neil said he does not want “any shouting, or ranting, or raving” on the channel but that Morgan’s many controversies helped ITV’s ratings challenge those of BBC Breakfast.

“I think he was also hard to control and I think that ITV felt he had just crossed the line and it was time to part company, and I understand that, which is why as I say we’d love to talk to Piers about this but I think we’d want to do things in a bit of a different way.”

Susanna Reid addressed her co-host’s exit and referred to his often divisive presence as she opened Wednesday’s programme, saying: “A number of people will know the news and many of you will not and will be surprised that Piers Morgan is not here this morning.

“Now, Piers and I have disagreed on many things and that dynamic was one of the things viewers loved about the programme.

“He is without doubt an outspoken, challenging, opinionated, disruptive broadcaster.

“He has many critics and he has many fans. You will know that I disagreed with him about Meghan’s interview. He himself clarified his comments about her mental health on the show yesterday.”

Reid said there are “many voices” on Good Morning Britain and “everyone has their say”.

She added: “But now Piers has decided to leave the programme. Some of you may cheer and others may boo.

“He has been my presenting partner, Monday to Wednesday, for more than five years and during Brexit and the pandemic and other issues. He has been a voice for many of you and a voice that many of you have railed against.

“It is certainly going to be very different but shows go on and so on we go.”

Former News of the World and Daily Mirror editor Morgan joined the GMB presenting team in 2015, a year after his CNN evening show was axed.

Picture: Reuters/Hannah McKay

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