Meghan, Duchess of Sussex complains after BBC podcast said she apologised for ‘misleading’ court

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BBC has now issued a statement after hearing from the Duchess's team - Caitlin Ochs/Reuters
BBC has now issued a statement after hearing from the Duchess's team - Caitlin Ochs/Reuters

The Duchess of Sussex has complained to the BBC over a podcast about her Mail on Sunday court case, which described how she “apologised for misleading” the Court of Appeal.

An episode of the five-part BBC podcast Harry, Meghan and the Media, presented by Amol Rajan, detailed how the Duchess “said she hadn’t helped” her biographers Omid Scobie and Carolyn Durand.

An email exchange seen by the court later showed she had authorised her press secretary to meet with them, providing her own briefing notes for him to convey.

In his narration about the court case against the Mail on Sunday, which the Duchess went on to win, Rajan said: “Initially, Meghan Markle had said she hadn’t helped Scobie with the book. She apologised for misleading the court on this.”

The BBC has now issued a statement on its “corrections and clarifications” website, after hearing from the Duchess’s team.

“We stated that the Duchess of Sussex apologised for misleading the court in her case against Associated Newspapers Group,” it said.

“The Duchess of Sussex has asked us to clarify that she apologised to the court for not remembering email exchanges with her former communications secretary, Jason Knauf, in her evidence, and said that she had no intention to mislead the court.”

Jenny Afia, the Duchess’s lawyer, appeared on the programme in person, and was filmed for a television series entitled The Princes and the Press.

In November, the court heard details of the Duchess’s involvement with her biography, Finding Freedom.

It followed a statement dated November 17, 2020, in which the Duchess’s lawyers told the court: “The claimant [Meghan] does not know if, and to what extent, the communications team were involved in providing information for the book, but the communications team did not contact the claimant for clarification of any matters relating to the book, save in respect of the request for a photograph ...which the claimant declined.”

A year later, the Court of Appeal heard evidence from Mr Knauf, her former press secretary, who confirmed the Duke and Duchess of Sussex both “authorised specific cooperation in writing” in December 2018.

Emails showed the Duchess providing written briefing notes “for when you sit down” with the authors.

Mr Knauf later confirmed to her in writing that he spent “two hours” with them and “took them through everything”.

Duchess's witness statement

After the documents were shared with the Duchess’s legal team, she provided a witness statement to say: “In the light of the information and documents that Mr Knauf has provided I accept that Mr Knauf did provide some information to the authors for the book and that he did so with my knowledge, for a meeting that he planned for with the authors in his capacity as Communications Secretary.

“The extent of the information he shared is unknown to me.”

She added that when she approved her lawyer’s previous statement, “I did not have the benefit of seeing these emails and I apologise to the court for the fact that I had not remembered these exchanges at the time.

“I had absolutely no wish or intention to mislead the defendant or the court.

“In fact, had I been aware of these exchanges at the time of serving the re-amended reply, I would have been more than happy to refer to them as I feel they strongly support my case.”

The BBC podcast did not go into the same level of detail in summarising the case, focusing on broad questions such as whether the Duchess was a victim of sexism, racism and palace leaks during her time in Britain.

The complaint to the BBC is the latest in a series of controversies about the show.

Last year, the Royal Family’s representatives complained that they had not been offered a proper chance to respond to allegations in the two-part television series.

A joint statement provided by Buckingham Palace, Clarence House and Kensington Palace in response to the show said: “A free, responsible and open press is of vital importance to a healthy democracy.

“However, too often it is overblown and unfounded claims from unnamed sources that are presented as facts and it is disappointing when anyone, including the BBC, gives them credibility.”

The podcast had been delayed from its original broadcast date of November 29. It was posted online as a “box set” on January 9th, after being edited to take into account details of the Court of Appeal case.

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