60 Mins blasted over ‘sensitive’ question
When 60 Minutes tweeted the trailer for its "How Meghan Markle lost her sparkle" segment earlier this week, it copped a global backlash.
But there was one "very sensitive" subject that wasn't addressed in the preview: Meghan Markle's race, and the extent to which racism has underpinned anti-Meghan sentiment in royal coverage.
The program was widely blasted for featuring Katie Hopkins, a conservative British commentator whose racist remarks frequently make global headlines. Many accused the show of pandering to critics whose dislike of Meghan they argue is driven by her African-American heritage.
During their full interview, Karl Stefanovic addressed the elephant in the room, asking Hopkins - a fierce critic of Meghan's - whether the vitriol she holds for the Duchess is underpinned by racism.
The British commentator denied that Meghan's heritage played into her dislike of the Duchess, saying those accusations were "old and tired".
"I think that's where people go with this. If I criticised Meghan, as we can hear I am, people say, 'Well, you're racist'. And, honestly, it's not even a second thought to me," she said. "It only comes up in the minds of those who are truly racist, and that's never people like me.
"I'm just observing that the dress is better on Kate. So, this racist thing is really old and tired, but I think it's just people's way of sort of saying 'You must not criticise Meghan'."
Former palace insider Patrick Jephson, who spent eight years as Princess Diana's private secretary, said the question of race was "entirely misleading".
"It's irrelevant and I would warn against anybody taking that line as any sort of explanation as to why Meghan sometimes doesn't get the press she necessarily wants," he told the program.
When Stefanovic claimed Harry "played the racism card to an extent," Jephson revealed he "strongly advised him against doing that".
"If you take that point of view then you're going to miss perhaps some more relevant reasons to why Meghan isn't as popular as she should be," he said.
As the show aired, 60 Minutes copped heavy criticism for an array of reasons - prominently featuring Hopkins, not interviewing people of colour, and for focusing on Meghan rather than Prince Andrew's ties to convicted paedophile Jeffrey Epstein.
#60Mins I don’t understand how Meghan-bashing is a story? She is amazing and you’ve dragged up a group of jealous wanna-be’s and calling it news-worthy?— Tracy Laidlaw (@TracyLaidlaw1) September 8, 2019
So far Meghan’s sins appear to be:— Michael Koziol (@michaelkoziol) September 8, 2019
- affording her baby some privacy
- going to the tennis wrongly
- believing in climate change #60minutes
I'm calling it. No matter what she does Markle simply can't win. #60minutes— Order No.227 (@AnthonyCole68) September 8, 2019
While denying she was racist, Hopkins took a vitriolic view of the Duchess, arguing she was harming Harry's reputation and was "only ever in cheap movies".
"Why do you hate Meghan so much?" Stefanovic asked her. "What has she ever done to you?"
"Oh everything," she responded. "'It's my royal family. This is my country. Prince Harry is my Prince Harry'."
"I'm not jealous," she added. "Who wants to be Meghan Markle? I'm unpopular. I'm known as the biggest b*tch in Britain. The only person in Britain who's more unpopular than me? Meghan Markle. I don't think that's right. I think that's true."
Hopkins then blasted the Duchess as a "hypocrite".
"What does Meghan Markle do? Oh, we've got to save the planet. Oh, do one good thing every day. Blah blah blah blah blah. Then what does she do? Get on four private flights to wherever land at 400,000 pounds a week hire and then uses up half the CO2 emissions that anyone else might have had. It's pure hypocrisy.
"And what is she really? She's a no one. She's a divorcee. When did we want a divorcee in the Royal family? She wears bad clothes. When did we ask for that? We've just got so much better of our own."
Stefanovic argued that Prince Harry doesn't care what anybody thinks, and just wants critics to butt out and stop remarking on their lives.
To this, Hopkins said: "But then, I just paid 2.3 million pounds as a taxpayer in order to develop Frogmore Cottage for him and his wife. I just paid for his wife to sit in the royal box at Wimbledon … she wouldn't let anyone take a photograph of her and asked to be sat alone. So give and take. Go leave the royal family. Abdicate."
However, the conservative did have one backhanded compliment for the Duchess.
"They are new money. And I do think in a new era of profitability the social media generation for the royal family and all of that, of course Markle's got that sewn up," she said.
"Hang on a second," interjected Stefanovic. "You concede that she's good for royal business?"
"No she's good for Meghan Markle's business," replied Hopkins.
In the lead-up to the segment, 60 Minutes was blasted by celebrities and commentators around the world.
Actress and activist Jameela Jamil, who was recently featured in the Duchess of Sussex-edited British Vogue special edition, said featuring Hopkins was "scraping the absolute bottom of the barrel" and criticised the show for not featuring any people of colour.
If you have to bring in Katie Hopkins, you’re scraping the absolute bottom of the barrel, So immediately we can dismiss this trash “entertainment” as *any* form of “journalism.” Are there any POC in this doc other than the woman being bullied? WHERE’S THE DOC ON ANDREW THE PEDO? https://t.co/wXqJ7HTe6c— Jameela Jamil 🌈 (@jameelajamil) September 5, 2019
Likewise, screen icon Mia Farrow dismissed it as "smug racist babble".
With all due respect- this smug racist babble is appalling, idiotic, distressing and disgusting.— Mia Farrow (@MiaFarrow) September 5, 2019
The Nine Network is yet to address the controversy.