Meghan Markle defended by US civil rights activist over racism claims

Rev. Al Sharpton has defended Meghan Markle on Good Morning Britain. (Getty Images)
Rev. Al Sharpton has defended Meghan Markle. (Getty Images)

The US civil rights leader the Reverend Al Sharpton has defended Meghan Markle and said she has been subjected to racist abuse since joining the royal family.

The Sussexes have been highly critical of the UK media. In his recently released memoir Spare, Harry criticised what he says was "dog-whistle racism and... glaring, vulgar, in-your-face racism" in some newspaper coverage.

Asked about the reaction of the UK media to Meghan joining the royal family, Sharpton said she had to endure "acrimony" following her wedding to Harry in May 2018.

Watch: Reverend Al Sharpton defends Meghan Markle

"When they were married it was a beautiful day and people were celebrating how you saw this woman of colour now in the Royal Family... gospel songs sung at the ceremony... the Queen sitting there. And then the reaction was so much acrimony and [people] just looking to treat her differently," he told Good Morning Britain.

"People - whether you're in the UK or around the world - who were always treated differently understood what Meghan was going through.

"It was somebody Black working in the C-suite for the first time, and they treat you differently."

WINDSOR, UNITED KINGDOM - MAY 19: Britain's Prince Harry, Duke of Sussex and his wife Meghan, Duchess of Sussex leave from the West Door of St George's Chapel, Windsor Castle, in Windsor on May 19, 2018 in Windsor, England. (Photo by  Ben STANSALL - WPA Pool/Getty Images)
Rev. Al Sharpton said Harry and Meghan's wedding was a "beautiful" occasion, but media treatment of the Duchess quickly became acrimonious. (Getty Images)

In 2021, the Society of Editors - the media industry body - released a statement saying: "The UK media is not bigoted and will not be swayed from its vital role holding the rich and powerful to account following the attack on the press by the Duke and Duchess of Sussex". The executive director in charge of the industry body — Ian Murray — subsequently stepped down after 168 journalists complained about the statement in an open letter.

Sharpton was also critical of the controversial column written about Meghan by Jeremy Clarkson for the Sun, in which he claimed to be "dreaming of the day when she is made to parade naked through the streets of every town in Britain while the crowds chant 'Shame!' and throw lumps of excrement at her".

Sharpton questioned why the television presenter had ever felt comfortable to write it in the first place.

"When you see the kind of mean-spirited article this guy wrote, for no reason 'drag her through the streets' — yeah fine you can apologise and many of us have said things, not at that level, that we could apologise for, but what makes you feel that you can say that in the first place?"

Clarkson has apologised for his column saying he was "profoundly sorry" and said he had written to both Meghan and Harry privately over the Christmas period expressing his regret.

LONDON, ENGLAND - JUNE 09: Jeremy Clarkson during the
Jeremy Clarkson promoting his Amazon Prime show, "Clarkson's Farm" in 2021, a similar press conference was called off after his comments about Meghan Markle. (Getty Images)

A spokesperson for the the Duke and Duchess of Sussex said Clarkson's correspondence had only been addressed to Harry, not Meghan, and took issue with Clarkson's claim that this was a "isolated incident".

"A new public apology has been issued today by Mr. Clarkson," the statement said. "What remains to be addressed is his long-standing pattern of writing articles that spread hate rhetoric, dangerous conspiracy theories, and misogyny."

Harry — speaking in an interview with ITV's Tom Bradby to promote his memoir Spare — called Clarkson's comments "horrific, hurtful and cruel".