Why has the culture secretary defended Jeremy Clarkson’s hateful Meghan Markle comments?

culture secretary defends hateful meghan markle comments
Culture secretary defends hateful Meghan commentsGetty Images

The UK's culture secretary has defended the much-complained-about comments made by Jeremy Clarkson towards Meghan Markle.

To recap, in a column for The Sun, the former Top Gear host wrote that he despises the Duchess of Sussex "on a cellular level" and dreams of people throwing "excrement" at her naked in the street. His column received over 12,000 complaints, according to the Independent Press Standards Organisation, and the presenter's own daughter, activist Emily Clarkson, took to social media to call him out. Jeremy later responded to the backlash surrounding his comments, telling fans he was "horrified".

But now, minister Michelle Donelan has said she believes Jeremy had "the right to say what he wanted to say." Although insisting that she does not agree with the presenter's comments about Meghan, the minister vowed to "always champion" the freedom of the press.

"I think that he had the right to say what he wanted to say," she told the BBC. "But obviously it was going to get the reaction that it got and it was going to concern a number of people."

"I wouldn’t have said what he said and I don’t align myself with the comments that he made, categorically no, of course I don’t," she went on. When asked about whether the article backed up claims made by Prince Harry and Meghan that the British press has unfairly targeted them, the culture secretary responded: "No, we do have to have a freedom of press."

culture secretary defends hateful meghan markle comments
Getty Images

"We do have to have a position where people can air opinions that we don’t all agree with, that is the nature of our media sector and press," she said. "It’s important for democracy, it’s important for exposing things, it’s important for challenging democracy, holding politicians to account."

"I would always champion journalists' freedom and their ability and right to be able to write that content," the minister continued. "Of course that shouldn’t stray into illegal content, or go in certain directions, but – yeah – I defend his right to be able to say what he wants."

But the minister's comments did not go down well on social media, with many expressing concern that a woman in power would hold such a view. "We have the right not to hear Jeremy Clarkson hate against women. Some boys will hear his misogyny and think this is acceptable behaviour," one person tweeted, with someone else writing: "So apparently @michelledonelan thinks arrogant Clarkson is absolutely fine to write those vile comments about Meghan. Hang your head in shame, woman, for encouraging violence and hatred towards women. You're a disgrace."

A third person accused the culture secretary of defending "freedom of misogyny" and the right to "incite hatred towards someone".

Others also exercised their right to 'freedom of speech' in tweets that could be classed as harmful or trolling – which all begs the question, in an age where online bullying is at a peak, where do we draw the line?

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