Column: Piers Morgan is boring. Let’s talk about Meghan’s ally Alex Beresford instead
Can we all stop talking about Piers Morgan and start talking about Alex Beresford?
On Tuesday’s edition of “Good Morning Britain,” someone offered a genuinely courageous and emphatic opinion about the controversy surrounding the recent “Oprah With Harry and Meghan” interview and it certainly was not Morgan.
Yes, Morgan went full diva, stalking off the set — and later unceremoniously quitting the ITV show he has co-hosted for six years) — after being criticized on air for his long-running and by any measure hateful attacks on the former Meghan Markle. Yes, the sight of a man who regularly describes his targets with words like “disgusting,” “contemptible” and “shameless” running for cover in the face of mildly worded criticism was hilarious.
Meghan Markle “might be marrying into a family that could cause some emotional complications,” TV host John Oliver told Stephen Colbert in 2018.
And of course, he, like so many masters of vitriol, is now cloaking himself in the mantle of free speech. Problematic in the U.K., which has no 1st Amendment protections as it has no 1st Amendment, and even in the U.S. where “free speech” does not protect you from being fired for making objectionable statements — or, as in the case of Morgan, being given the choice to either apologize or quit. (Morgan, who stands by his stated opinion that he does not believe anything Meghan said during the interview, including that she felt suicidal, chose the latter.)
Indeed, we could talk all day about Morgan, his extraordinary ability to fail upward and what that stands for in 2021 — but let’s not because, frankly, he’s boring.
Alex Beresford, on the other hand, is the opposite of boring. He’s the guy who came out of nowhere to say what many were thinking, the “Good Morning Britain” weather presenter who decided he could not remain silent while a woman was repeatedly getting torn down.
Even if speaking out meant facing a senior colleague’s on-air wrath.
Two decades after a tragic end for Princess Diana, nothing has really changed at Buckingham Palace.
On Tuesday, as Morgan prepared to greet a.m. Britain with a rant about what he considers the traitorous nature of the Sussexes’ recent interview with Oprah Winfrey, and Meghan’s single-handed attempt to destroy the British monarchy through race-baiting and false claims of mental health issues, Beresford decided enough was enough.
“I understand you don’t like Meghan Markle,” Beresford said. “You’ve made it so clear a number of times on this program. and I understand you’ve got a personal relationship with Meghan Markle and she cut you off. She’s entitled to cut you off if she wants to. Has she said anything about you since she cut you off? I don’t think she has but yet you continue to trash her.”
At which point Morgan vacated his seat and stomped off, muttering “I’m done with this this” and “you can come at me but not on my own show.”
“This is just diabolical behavior,” said Beresford, who like the duchess, is mixed race. “I’m sorry but Piers spouts off on a regular basis and we all have to sit there and listen — 6:30 to seven o’clock yesterday was incredibly hard to watch, incredibly hard to watch. This is — you know, he has the ability to come in here and talk from a position where he doesn’t fully understand.”
The incident was so shocking that many viewers believed it had been staged.
The Duchess of Sussex complained to British broadcaster ITV about comments by “Good Morning Britain” anchor Piers Morgan regarding her mental health.
It is not the first time the two men have clashed, however. Two years ago, when Beresford attempted to join the general conversation one morning, Morgan shut him down by saying: “You know what, mate, you’re doing the weather. Your job is the weather.” That time it was Beresford who walked off set. “Look at him, the little drama queen,” Morgan said as Beresford made his exit.
Nor is Beresford the first person to question Morgan’s ability, as a white man, to recognize or understand the constant subtle racism many believe Meghan has faced as Britain’s first royal of color. On Monday, British television host Trisha Goddard, who is Black, pushed back against Morgan’s charge that Meghan was playing the race card. “I’m sorry, Piers — you don’t get to call out what is and isn’t racism against Black people,” she said. “You can call out all the other stuff … but leave the racism stuff to us.”
But Beresford’s response directly questioned the root cause of the co-host’s ongoing criticism of the Duchess — the fact that just after meeting Harry she had, as he put it, “ghosted” Morgan.
This incident is known only because Morgan has been so public about it, recounting the DM friendship he and then-Markle struck up years ago, which culminated in the pair meeting for drinks when Meghan was in London. As Morgan tells it, they had a lovely time and then she left, on her way to the party where she would meet Prince Harry for the first time. After that, Morgan, by his account, heard nothing more from her, which he took — as he said on several occasions after her rocky relationship with her father made news — as proof that she was a social climber of the worst sort.
Instead of, I don’t know, a woman who decided, or was told, that it might not be a great idea to continue DMing with a high-profile British journalist as she embarked on what would inevitably be an initially secret and then highly publicized romantic relationship with a prince.
Many other members of the press and the Twittersphere have called Morgan out for his relentless and very personal criticism of Meghan over the years, and some have speculated that it was rooted in revenge. But for Beresford to highlight the rift on-camera was remarkably brave. Many people, including millions of “Good Morning Britain” viewers, are fans of Morgan and agree with his assessment of the duchess, while Beresford is, as Morgan so kindly pointed out two years ago, the weather presenter.
As a person of color, it is understandable that he, like Goddard, would have a hard time remaining silent when Morgan accused the duke and duchess of crying “racism” where none existed. As Beresford subsequently said in a tweet: “In order for me to do that I would have to strip myself of my identity.” A Bristol native, he has been with “Good Morning Britain” since it began in 2014 and has spoken out on the show before. In 2019 he interrupted the Police Federation chair’s argument that Britain needed more prisons to quell a rash of stabbings. “Prisons don’t work though,” Beresford argued. “I’ve grown up in some of these communities you’re talking about ... if we don’t change the environment, we won’t change anything.”
On Tuesday, Beresford emerged again as an important voice of allyship, as well as representation, with his simple and forceful assertion that Meghan had every right to cut Morgan off.
This is what women, people of color, members of the LGBTQ community and other groups mean when they ask for all of us to speak up and speak out in real time about the subtle forces of bigotry in the workplace and society. For years, Morgan seems to have used his interpretation of his experience with Meghan to inform all his subsequent commentary about her — she ghosted him, therefore she is an untrustworthy opportunist and her every action and utterance henceforth should be framed by that characterization.
This is something many people knew, but only Beresford had the guts to say: Even if she intentionally or inadvertently hurt your feelings, Piers, that does not give you the right to tear her down on multiple media platforms on a near-daily basis.
A woman has the right to reject a man, in whatever form, for whatever reason, without fear of being targeted or maligned in return.
Journalistically, the fact that Morgan would continue to cover a figure with whom he had a personal relationship and, by his own account, toward whom he bore a personal grievance, is questionable; it certainly lends his criticism the appearance of vendetta.
Meghan has many public critics, but Morgan is particularly relentless and malicious. His dismissal of her account of having suicidal thoughts — “I wouldn’t believe her if she read the weather report” — drew more than 40,000 complaints to the U.K. media regulator Ofcom, forcing Morgan to admit, publicly, that suicide is a serious thing and he had no way of knowing the duchess’ state of mind at any time.
(For the record, when you are being forced by your employer to state publicly that you know suicide is serious, something has gone very wrong.)
On Tuesday Ofcom announced it was launching an investigation into those complaints, which included one from the duchess herself. That investigation, and Meghan’s complaint, no doubt had more to do with Morgan’s being given an “apologize or leave” ultimatum than Beresford’s on-air challenge.
But his challenge is what we should keep talking about.
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