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Piers Morgan quits UK morning show over Meghan Markle furor: What happened?

"Freedom of speech is a hill I'm happy to die on. Thanks for all the love, and hate," the TV personality says after storming off the set and later leaving his job.

piers
Broadcaster Piers Morgan, pictured in 2019, has quit Good Morning Britain.  
Axelle/Bauer-Griffin/FilmMagic

The fuss over Oprah Winfrey's headline-making interview with the Duke and Duchess of Sussex, aka Meghan Markle and Prince Harry, didn't end when the credits rolled on Sunday night's CBS specialQueen Elizabeth II issued a statement about the interview on Tuesday, and Jen Psaki, press secretary for President Joe Biden, even addressed it. Now British television personality Piers Morgan has left the show Good Morning Britain after saying he didn't believe what Markle said about considering suicide and getting no help from the palace.

Who is Piers Morgan?

Americans might remember Morgan from his 2006-2011 stint as a judge on America's Got Talent, or his hosting of the CNN show Piers Morgan Live, which ended in 2014. He also won the first season of The Celebrity Apprentice, in 2008, when he was crowned Best Business Brain by then-businessman, later-US President Donald Trump. But he's mostly a name in the UK, where he served as an editor of numerous tabloids and co-hosted Good Morning Britain from 2015 until his 2021 departure.

What did he say?

Morgan has long been a vocal critic of Meghan Markle, and he didn't hold back on Good Morning Britain in the days after the interview aired. He called Markle and Prince Harry's interview Winfrey a "two-hour trash-a-thon" of the royal family.

But his comments Monday on Markle's discussion of her suicidal feelings stirred the most controversy. After the show replayed that part of the interview, Morgan said, "I'm sorry, I don't believe a word she says, Meghan Markle. I wouldn't believe her if she read me a weather report."

Morgan addressed his controversial remarks on the show Tuesday, walking them back a little. 

"I still have serious concerns about the veracity of a lot of what she said," Morgan announced. But he said he perhaps went too far, saying, "It's not for me to question whether she felt suicidal." 

He went on to say he didn't believe a member of the royal household told Markle she couldn't seek help for feelings of despair. If that's true, that royal employee should be fired, and the royal family should have to answer for allowing that, Morgan said.

What happened next?

Morgan's remarks about Markle weren't well received. Ofcom, the British government's broadcasting regulatory authority, is looking into the matter.

"We have launched an investigation into Monday's episode of Good Morning Britain under our harm and offense rules," a representative for Ofcom said in a tweet sent Tuesday, noting the organization had received more than 41,000 complaints about Monday's show at that point. 

But Morgan still appeared on Tuesday's show, where things heated up. Another presenter on the show, Alex Beresford, called him out for the Markle comments, saying in part that Morgan was angry because of his past friendship with the duchess.

"She's entitled to cut you off if she wants to," Beresford said. "Has she said anything about you since she cut you off? I don't think she has, but yet you continue to trash her."

That's when Morgan stood up and strode off the set, calling out, "OK, I'm done with this."

Quitting time

Morgan has now left Good Morning Britain. ITV, the network that airs the morning show, announced the change on Tuesday.

"Following discussions with ITV, Piers Morgan has decided now is the time to leave Good Morning Britain," the statement read. "ITV has accepted this decision and has nothing further to add."

Morgan tweeted a response on Tuesday night, saying, "On Monday, I said I didn't believe Meghan Markle in her Oprah interview. I've had time to reflect on this opinion, and I still don't. If you did, OK. Freedom of speech is a hill I'm happy to die on. Thanks for all the love, and hate. I'm off to spend more time with my opinions." He followed it up with an image of Britain's famed prime minister, Winston Churchill, and a 1943 Churchill quote about free speech.

What's the reaction been?

Many viewers, both British and American, came down on Markle and Prince Harry's side.

English comedian Sue Perkins, known to many for her six-year stint hosting The Great British Bake-Off, supported Markle.

"I want to live in a world where, wherever you're from and whatever your circumstances, you are believed and helped when you reach out in a crisis," Perkins said in a tweet.

Another Twitter user wrote, "The irony here is that Piers Morgan believes it is OK to walk away from something that he cannot deal with. But may hell (break) loose if Meghan and Harry walk away after going through an unsurvivable experience. Says it all about the kind of person he is."

But others, including another television personality, Sharon Osbourne, supported Morgan. 

"People forget that you're paid for your opinion and that you're just speaking your truth," she tweeted. 

Some viewers sided with Morgan in questioning Markle and her motives for the interview.

"They've made millions from this!" one person wrote. "They're OK to make the allegations and expect people to believe it, but allegations made about them they say are lies! Meghan has no family and now neither does Harry!"

Winfrey said during the interview that Markle and the prince weren't paid for speaking to her.