Piers Morgan has chosen to leave Good Morning Britain and ever the divisive figure, it’s fair to say a lot of his critics were overjoyed when ITV released their statement confirming the decision on Tuesday.
On Monday’s edition of the ITV breakfast programme, Morgan said he “[doesn’t] believe a word she says”, after a clip was shared showing Markle had experienced suicidal thoughts.
The comments were condemned by members of the public, while the mental health charity Mind said the remarks had left them “disappointed and concerned”.
A day later, Morgan clarified his stance on the issue: “On mental illness and suicide, these are extremely serious things and should be taken extremely seriously. If someone is feeling that way, they should get the treatment and the help that they need – every time.
“It’s not for me to question whether she felt suicidal … My real concern is a disbelief, frankly – and I am prepared to be proven wrong on this, and if I’m wrong, it is a scandal – that she went to a senior member of the royal household, told them she was suicidal, and was told she could not have any help.”
As pressure mounted on Morgan, ITV confirmed on Tuesday evening that he had decided “now is the time” to leave Good Morning Britain.
While criticism over his comments around Markle appeared to be the final straw for Morgan, it isn’t the first time that the presenter has attracted controversy.
Claiming his colleagues ‘mini skirt’ was the ‘first sign of summer’
On the same day that Morgan stormed off set in response to Beresford’s comments, Morgan said the “first sign of summer” has been his co-host Charlotte Hawkins “arriving in a mini skirt”.
“Up you get,”said Morgan, with Hawkins responding by saying “I don’t know why you’re getting so overexcited about the fact I’m wearing a dress”.
Once the clip was shared to Twitter, users were quick to condemn Morgan’s behaviour, describing it as “cruel” and “unacceptable misogyny”.
Telling people struggling with mental health issues to ‘man up’
Morgan’s criticism of Meghan Markle’s revelation that she had experienced suicidal thoughts isn’t the first time he’s discussed mental health issues. In 2017, he told adults with mental illnesses to simply “man up”.
Sharing an article from the i newspaper with the headline ‘do 34 million British adults really have mental health problems’, Morgan tweeted: “34 million UK adults are mentally ill? What utter nonsense.
“Man up, Britain and focus on those who REALLY need help.”
The stance was challenged earlier that day by former Liverpool footballer Stan Collymore, who told the journalist: “The whole point about speaking up and talking out about mental health issues is you shouldn’t have to ‘man up’, sit there, have a stiff upper lip.
“You should - at the appropriate time, if you are struggling – go to your doctor [or] speak to your friend,” he said.
Breaking an embargo about BBC staff salaries
Later in 2017, the journalist left other senior reporters angry and frustrated for breaking an embargo over the salaries of some of the BBC’s biggest names, claiming it was a “scoop”.
Beth Rigby, then Sky News’ senior political correspondent, responded: “Piers Morgan is utterly disgraceful to break embargo when hacks gathered at BBC for press conference and respected lock-in. Shame on him.
“Morgan breaks an embargo that dozens of journos honour and calls it a scoop. Funny guy. And a bit of a joke.”
950 complaints to Ofcom about his ‘transgender’ comments
In September 2019, Ofcom received 950 complaints relating to a segment on Good Morning Britain which discussed gender identities, with complainants claiming Morgan’s comments constituted “transgender discrimination”.
In a conversation with journalist Benjamin Butterworth, prompted by an educational video by the BBC which said there were more than 100 genders, Morgan asked the guest: “Can I, in this new world of self-identification … identify as a two-spirit, neutrois penguin.”
He then went on to add: “I’m actually a two-spirit, neutrois, pangender penguin. How dare you tell me I can’t identify as that. How dare you offend me?”
However, Ofcom later dismissed the complaints, saying in a report that it “did not raise issues warranting investigation”.
The regulator told HuffPost UK: “While the presenter’s remarks offended some viewers, we took into account his later expression of support and respect for a transgender guest. The programme also featured a range of gender-related discussions, during which another presenter provided further context by arguing that people had the right to choose how they identify.
“However, we’ve reminded ITV that strong views on issues such as sex or gender reassignment should be presented with care.”
A month later, as Morgan continued to face criticism for his views on gender, Good Morning Britain put out a Twitter poll asking if he should stay or leave the programme.
Despite more than 480 thousand votes being cast, of which 60 per cent wanted the presenter to go, he stayed.
Mimicking the Chinese language
Several months on, and April 2020 saw Ofcom respond with two separate complaints relating to the presenter. The first of which concerned Morgan “mimicking” the Chinese language, which received more than 1,600 complaints.
In January last year, a Good Morning Britain item saw the presenting team discuss the Queen’s grandson, Peter Phillips, who appeared in an advert for milk in China.
Commenting on the story, Morgan said: “Can you imagine on Christmas at Sandringham is like, ‘I’m sorry, your majesty, but I only drink ‘yeng yeng dong dong yong ming ming’ milk.”
Complaints to Ofcom followed once again, but the regulator chose not to pursue the issue.
“This had the potential to be particularly offensive, but we concluded that overall there was sufficient challenge and context. We also took into account actions taken by ITV including a public apology,” they said.
Morgan did later claim he was mocking a member of the royal family and not Chinese people.
Complaints following his interviews with Helen Whately
Later that month, Ofcom issued its decision on more than 3,200 total complaints regarding two interviews by Morgan with social care minister Helen Whately.
Referencing a Daily Mail front page which said ‘four thousand feared dead in our care homes’, Morgan said: “I literally just asked you: is it true that four thousand elderly people have died in hospital, and all you can do is laugh. What’s the matter with you?”
When Whately then stated she was not laughing, the presenter responded: “We literally just saw you [do it].”
“I have not been, but it feels like you’re shouting at me and not giving me a chance to answer your question,” she replied.
Whately returned to the programme a week later to discuss testing in care homes, in what was another heated interview.
When Morgan learned of the complaints – a few days before Ofcom’s decision was issued – he tweeted: “Apparently nearly 2,000 people have now complained to Ofcom about me grilling Helen Whately too ‘unfairly’ when she couldn’t answer even basic questions.
“If you think I should continue grilling ministers in the way I’ve been doing, please tell Ofcom.”
With more than 3,000 retweets, the regulator was later forced to respond to Morgan’s post, calling on him to “go easy on the mentions”.
“We’re usually happy with you keeping us busy, but right now we’re struggling to keep up after you asked your followers to contact us. This means we may fail to help the people that need us most – such as the vulnerable or elderly,” they said.
Quoting the regulator’s reply, Morgan added: “My apologies… I underestimated the scale of public support.”
Irrespective of this, Ofcom once again chose not to investigate the complaints, saying that Morgan is “well-known for his combative interviewing style”.
A statement issued at the time read: “His guests were given adequate opportunity to put their points across and counter the presenter’s criticisms.
“In Ofcom’s view, in line with freedom of expression, it is clearly in the public interest that broadcasters are able to hold those making political decisions to account, particularly during a major national crisis, such as the coronavirus pandemic.”
Now, the regulator is looking into the latest controversy: around Morgan’s comments about Markle’s mental health.