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Jeremy Clarkson Sun column becomes IPSO’s most-ever complained about article

The Editors' Code does not necessarily prevent publishers from publishing such content, however.

By Bron Maher

Update, 5.15pm, 20 December: The number of complaints against Jeremy Clarkson’s Sun column have now surpassed 20,000, reaching 20,800.

IPSO said in a statement: “We will follow our usual processes to examine the complaints we have received. This will take longer than usual because of the volume of complaints.”

[Read more: IPSO’s most complained about articles: From Stonehaven ‘Death Express’ to Jeremy Clarkson on Meghan Markle]

Update, 12pm, 20 December: Jeremy Clarkson’s Sun column in which he said he wanted Meghan Markle “paraded naked through the streets of every town in Britain” has become IPSO’s most-complained about article since it was established in 2014.

According to PA Media, by approximately 9am on Tuesday Clarkson’s story had prompted more than 17,500 complaints to IPSO. The previous most-complained about article – a Scottish Sun article about the Stonehaven train derailment in August 2020 – received more than 16,860 complaints.

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The most complained of article prior to IPSO’s establishment was a 2009 comment piece in the Daily Mail by Jan Moir, which connected Boyzone singer Stephen Gately’s early death to his being gay. The main press regulator then, the Press Complaints Commission, ultimately dismissed the 25,000 complaints.

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Original story, 10:30am, 20 December: Press regulator IPSO says it has received more than 12,000 complaints over an article about Meghan Markle written by Jeremy Clarkson for The Sun.

In its 2021 annual report, IPSO said it received 14,355 complaints across the entire year.

The number of complaints had been 6,000 at approximately 1.30pm on Monday. By 5pm, IPSO updated this figure to 12,000.

The article, first published on The Sun website on the night of 16 December and since removed, was headlined: “One day, Harold the glove puppet will tell the truth about A Woman Talking B*****ks.” It described Clarkson’s “hate” for Duchess of Sussex Meghan Markle.

“Not like I hate Nicola Sturgeon or Rose West,” Clarkson wrote. “I hate her [Markle] on a cellular level.

“At night, I’m unable to sleep as I lie there, grinding my teeth and dreaming of the day when she is made to parade naked through the streets of every town in Britain while the crowds chant, ‘Shame!’ and throw lumps of excrement at her.” The scene imagined is a reference to fantasy show Game of Thrones.

Clarkson’s article received widespread criticism and accusations of misogyny. Conservative MP and chair of the Women and Equalities select committee Caroline Nokes wrote to Sun editor Victoria Newton demanding an apology, action against Clarkson and that “definitive action is taken to ensure no article like this is ever published again”. Some 64 MPs from across the parliamentary parties signed the letter.

Women in Journalism said it was “revolted by the misogynistic and bullying comments made by Jeremy Clarkson about the Duchess of Sussex. The brutal, graphic and derogatory language used was entirely unacceptable. We stand in support of all women who are targets of abuse and hate within media.”

Clarkson has responded by tweeting: “Oh dear. I’ve rather put my foot in it… I’m horrified to have caused so much hurt and I shall be more careful in future.”

The Editors’ Code of Practice, which lays out the editorial standards by which IPSO members should abide, does not necessarily prevent them from publishing hateful or misogynistic content. Clause 12 (discrimination) of the code prohibits publishers from making “prejudicial or pejorative reference to an individual’s race, colour, religion, sex, gender identity, sexual orientation or to any physical or mental illness or disability”.

It also says details “of an individual’s race, colour, religion, gender identity, sexual orientation, physical or mental illness or disability” should not be described in the story unless “genuinely relevant”. Breaches of Clause 12 are extremely rare. In most instances in which the clause is invoked, IPSO determines that the content complained about does not engage the clause.

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Select and enter your email address Weekly insight into the big strategic issues affecting the future of the news industry. Essential reading for media leaders every Thursday. Your morning brew of news about the world of news from Press Gazette and elsewhere in the media. Sent at around 10am UK time. Our weekly does of strategic insight about the future of news media aimed at US readers. A fortnightly update from the front-line of news and advertising. Aimed at marketers and those involved in the advertising industry.
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