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Jeremy Clarkson’s Column in The Sun Ruled Sexist by Press Regulator

A column penned by Jeremy Clarkson in The Sun, which depicted the Duchess of Sussex being paraded naked in the street, has been deemed sexist by the Independent Press Standards Organisation (Ipso), the press regulator. A record-breaking 25,000 complaints were received by Ipso regarding the article. Lord Faulks, the chairman of Ipso, stated that the imagery used was “humiliating and degrading towards the duchess.”

Prince Harry and Meghan accused Clarkson of propagating “hate rhetoric” and condemned the article for promoting “dangerous conspiracy theories and misogyny.” The Sun, in response to the Ipso ruling, acknowledged that with free expression comes responsibility. The publication and its columnist apologized for the column in December 2022 and removed it from their website. However, they did not accept that the article breached the editor’s code, attributing the concerns raised to a “matter of taste and judgement.”

Ipso’s investigation concluded that the article indeed violated the editors’ code of practice as it included a “pejorative and prejudicial reference” to Meghan’s sex. The watchdog dismissed complaints suggesting discrimination based on race, inaccuracies, or harassment towards the duchess.

Clarkson’s column, in addition to the aforementioned depiction, expressed his strong dislike for Meghan, stating that he hated her “on a cellular level.” He drew a comparison between his feelings towards the duchess, former Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon, and serial killer Rose West. Ipso found this comparison to be rooted in their shared femininity.

Charlotte Dewar, Ipso’s chief executive, explained that the regulator had considered complaints from gender equality charity The Fawcett Society and The Wilde Foundation, a charity supporting abuse victims and survivors. Ipso’s remedy for the breach involved publishing its decision for Sun readers and the wider public, ensuring transparency in the findings.

The Sun acknowledged Ipso’s ruling regarding the pejorative reference to the duchess’s sex but noted that other aspects of the complaint, such as inaccuracy, harassment, and discriminatory references based on race, were not upheld. The newspaper emphasized its long history of campaigning for women and the positive impact it has had on many lives.

The Fawcett Society’s chief executive, Jemima Olchawski, condemned Clarkson’s column as “vile and offensive.” She called for an investigation into how such “toxic comments” found their way into the pages of a major newspaper. Labour MP Harriet Harman, the society’s incoming chairwoman, regarded the Ipso ruling as a significant step forward in combatting media sexism.

Clarkson admitted his error and expressed deep remorse upon reading the article. He reached out to Prince Harry and Meghan over Christmas 2022 to apologize for the “disgraceful” language used in his column. The Sun, apart from removing the column from its website, issued a sincere apology. However, Harry and Meghan’s spokesperson dismissed the apology, accusing the paper of profiting from and exploiting “hate, violence, and misogyny.” They urged the newspaper to make a genuine shift in their coverage and ethical standards.

Ipso’s ruling on this article garnered the highest number of complaints since its establishment in 2014.

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