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The Guardian - UK
The Guardian - UK
Jessica Elgot Deputy political editor

Jeremy Clarkson column on Meghan breaks watchdog’s complaints record

Jeremy Clarkson
MPs said Jeremy Clarkson’s column contributed to an ‘unacceptable climate of hatred and violence’. Photograph: Ian West/PA Media

Jeremy Clarkson’s Sun newspaper column, in which he said he “hated” the Duchess of Sussex, has become the Independent Press Standards Organisation’s most complained about article, the regulator has said.

Ipso said the piece, which was removed from the Sun’s website on Monday at Clarkson’s request, had received more than 17,500 complaints as of 9am on Tuesday.

“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,” an Ipso spokesperson told the PA Media news agency.

The number surpassed the total number of complaints the media regulator received in 2021, 14,355.

More than 60 cross-party MPs have written to the Sun’s editor, Victoria Newton, to demand an apology and “action taken” against Clarkson for the column where he said Meghan should be paraded through the streets naked.

In their letter, they said Meghan had received credible threats to her life and that columns such as Clarkson’s contributed to an “unacceptable climate of hatred and violence”.

The letter, coordinated by the Conservative chair of the women and equalities select committee, Caroline Nokes, was signed by Tory, Labour, Lib Dem, Green and SNP MPs, including the Conservative chair of the Treasury select committee, Harriett Baldwin, Labour’s Harriet Harman and Caroline Lucas of the Green party.

In an article published on Friday in the wake of Prince Harry and Meghan’s Netflix documentary, Clarkson wrote that he loathed Meghan “on a cellular level” compared with the serial killer Rose West.

He said he was “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The Sun has since withdrawn the column at the request of Clarkson, but a statement from him promising to be more careful in future has been criticised for not including an apology.

In their letter, Nokes and the other MPs tell Newton they “condemn in the strongest possible terms the violent misogynist language … This sort of language has no place in our country and it is unacceptable it was allowed to be published in a mainstream newspaper.”

They add: “We cannot allow this type of behaviour to go unchecked any longer. We welcome the Sun’s retraction of the article and we now demand action is taken against Mr Clarkson and an unreserved apology to Ms Markle immediately.”

Others who signed the letter included Labour’s Stella Creasy, Dawn Butler and Dan Jarvis, as well as the former Conservative cabinet minister Andrea Leadsom and the Lib Dem deputy leader, Daisy Cooper.

After widespread outcry over the weekend, Clarkson issued a statement on Monday, saying: “Oh dear. I’ve rather put my foot in it. In a column I wrote about Meghan, I made a clumsy reference to a scene in Game of Thrones and this has gone down badly with a great many people. I’m horrified to have caused so much hurt and I shall be more careful in future.”

But Nokes said it was “not an apology” and tweeting the letter said: “I welcome Jeremy Clarkson’s acknowledgment that he has caused hurt … but an editorial process allowed his column to be printed unchallenged.”

Critics of the piece included Clarkson’s daughter Emily, who said: “I want to make it very clear that I stand against everything my dad wrote about Meghan Markle.”

It is unclear which of Ipso’s rules could have been broken because of its broad guidelines for comment pieces. The chair of the regulator, Edward Faulks, cancelled plans to attend a private dinner with Rupert Murdoch on Monday night.

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