A group of British lawmakers are calling for action to be taken against columnist Jeremy Clarkson after he wrote a “violent misogynist” opinion piece about Meghan, the Duchess of Sussex in the Sun newspaper, which was later retracted.
“We welcome The Sun’s retraction of the article, we now demand action is taken against Mr Clarkson and an unreserved apology is issued to Ms Markle immediately,” reads the letter, which was led by Caroline Nokes, a Member of Parliament from the ruling Conservative party, and chair of Parliament’s Women and Equalities Committee.
“We further demand definitive action is taken to ensure no article like this is ever published again.”
The letter, published on Nokes’ social media and signed by 64 other lawmakers from various political parties, condemns the “violent misogynistic” language used against Meghan.
“This sort of language has no place in our country, and it is unacceptable that it was allowed to be published in a mainstream newspaper,” it reads.
“Ms Markle has faced multiple credible threats to her life, requiring the intervention of the Metropolitan Police. Hateful articles like the one written by Mr Clarkson do not exist in a vacuum and directly contribute to this unacceptable climate of hatred and violence.”
Thousands of people have written to the UK’s press regulator the Independent Press Standards Organisation (IPSO) to complain about the column in the Rupert Murdoch-owned tabloid. As of Tuesday morning, IPSO had received more than 17,500 complaints, the largest volume of complaints the regulator has received about a single article, a spokesman told CNN.
The Sun stopped sharing its readership figures in 2020, but the most recent data available showed it had a circulation of 1.2 million in March 2020, trade publication Press Gazette reported, citing figures from the official Audit Bureau of Circulations. This was the highest circulation of any UK national newspaper at the time.
Clarkson, who is best known as the host of Amazon’s “The Grand Tour” motoring show and a former host of the BBC’s “Top Gear,” has also received significant backlash from other online commentators, and on Monday he tweeted of his regret over the column.
“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,” Clarkson wrote. “I’m horrified to have caused so much hurt and I shall be more careful in future.”
The Sun has since removed the article from its website.
“In light of Jeremy Clarkson’s tweet he has asked us to take last week’s column down,” the page now reads.
The Sun declined to comment further when contacted by CNN. CNN has also contacted Clarkson’s representatives for comment.
Nokes responded to Clarkson’s tweet on her official Twitter account.
“I welcome Jeremy Clarkson’s acknowledgement that he has caused hurt #notanapology- but an editorial process allowed his column to be printed unchallenged,” she wrote.
Damian Tambini, associate professor of Media Governance at the London School of Economics, told CNN that Harry and Meghan “don’t really have a lot of scope to take direct action against the newspapers” because the UK’s media regulatory framework “is in disarray” and IPSO “is widely regarded as captured by the press.”
The code governing UK media standards only deals with overt racism or careless inaccuracy, rather than hate, incitement or misogyny, he added.
“The code and IPSO lack credibility and are unlikely to take real action,” said Tambini.
Clarkson’s column follows the release earlier this month of the Duke and Duchess of Sussex’s “Harry and Meghan” documentary series on Netflix, in which the couple discuss their treatment at the hands of the UK press.
Harry blamed the media for placing undue stress on his wife and linked press coverage to a miscarriage she suffered in July 2020 after moving to California.
Meghan recalled how she was stressed by UK newspaper the Mail on Sunday publishing a private letter she had written to her father, Thomas Markle.
CNN contacted the Mail on Sunday and its publisher Associated Newspapers Limited for comment when the documentary was aired on December 15.
The Sussexes cut off all dealings with four of the United Kingdom’s biggest tabloid newspapers in 2020, after years of strained relations.
The newspapers – the Daily Mail, the Sun, the Mirror and the Express – were notified at the time in a letter.
In the letter, the couple said they believe a free press “is a cornerstone to any democracy” but added that “there is a real human cost” to the way the tabloids go about their business.