This is how he spun his most recent exit from “Good Morning, Britain” following his attacks on Meghan, Duchess of Sussex earlier this week and the outrage that followed. On Wednesday, he tweeted a photo of Winston Churchill alongside the words, “Some people’s idea is that they are free to say what they like, but when someone says something back, it’s an outrage.” The quote was partly cleaning, partly trolling: The day before, Morgan had stormed off the set when a colleague criticized him for his comments.
In a way, it’s a fitting ending to the recent controversy that has very little to do with free speech and a lot to do with hypocrisy. In all of his speeches about Meghan and her husband Harry, Duke of Sussex, who manipulates people emotionally, Morgan tries to do just that.
Morgan’s most recent implosion began with The Interview: the two-hour conversation between Meghan, Harry, and Oprah Winfrey that aired last Sunday. Almost everything Winfrey touches turns to gold, so it’s no surprise that Winfrey + Royal Family has been a bonanza for ratings. In the interview, the couple discussed the challenges that led them to leave the royal family and move first to Canada and then to the United States.
It was a typical Oprah interview. Winfrey’s main gift, being the country’s confessor for a quarter of a century, is her ability to work out the feelings and vulnerabilities of people, which she portrays as the core of her authentic selves. These words – vulnerability, authenticity, emotion – form the core of the Winfrey brand.
Meghan and Harry were particularly well suited for an Oprah interview precisely because they recently rejected the culture of the monarchy that our stiff upper lips are sealed. Even leaving aside the contents of the secrets they revealed about their experiences of racism, neglect, and control, the mere act of sitting down for one of Winfrey’s emotional, insightful interviews underscored how thoroughly they had discarded their previous lives.
Morgan’s dismissive comments, particularly about Meghan’s openness to her mental health issues, indicate that he is suspicious of these types of emotions in ways that seem familiar. So much criticism of contemporary culture, especially conversations about racism, sexism, and fairness, is rooted in the notion that it is too affective, too thin-skinned, and subjective. The politics of empathy and fairness are rejected as politics of fragility, as a sign of weakness or manipulation.
This has been Morgan’s line of attack against Meghan for years. He dismissed her as an understanding social climber, calling her “a shameless piece of work” and calling her “understanding, selfish, scheming Kardashian wannabes” after the couple announced they were leaving the royal family. After the Winfrey interview, he criticized Meghan not only for showing emotions, but for manipulating them. Refusing to believe her emotions were real, he argued that they were all part of a larger manipulation: that she played the mental health card, the racing card, and even the pregnancy card to protect herself from criticism. On “Good Morning, Britain” the day after the interview, he went on to deny her claims that she was suicidal and that she received no help during her first pregnancy. “I’m sorry, I don’t believe a word she said Meghan Markle,” he said. “I wouldn’t believe it if she read me a weather report.” (He later resigned, then doubled down on Twitter.) None of this should surprise Morgan, who confuses cruelty with honesty – as most bloody bullies do and would. But it’s ironic, as all of its fate is rooted in emotion. Not the kind you find with Oprah – empathy and vulnerability aren’t its strengths – but a deep source of complaint and anger. His attacks on Meghan, based at least in part on his belief that she had berated him after she started dating Harry, came not from a careful examination of her claims, but from his prickly anger over a long time ago minor one Suffering. With Morgan’s attacks based on this rickety emotional framework, he was quick to find firmer ground. He found it in his freedom of speech claims backed by CNN’s Jake Tapper. But Morgan is not a free speech warrior. In 2011 he banned actor Hugh Grant from his programs because Grant criticized the tabloids. Nor is he interested in creating an environment in which an open exchange of ideas is possible. As he revealed when marching off the set in response to measured criticism from a colleague, Morgan doesn’t want a debate. He wants a safe place for his explosive anger and bullying.
He also wants moral height, so he strives to position himself as the defender of a more abstract, nobler law. “Free speech is a hill I love to die on,” he tweeted after his departure from Good Morning, Britain was announced. “Thank you for all the love and hate. I will spend more time with my opinions.” But it’s really his feelings that he wants to pamper himself.