Culture secretary thinks it’s fine for Jeremy Clarkson to ‘say what he wants’ about Meghan Markle
Michelle Donelan said that while Jeremy Clarkson’s rant agains Meghan Markle was “outrageous”, he should be free to “say what he wants”.
In December, Clarkson wrote in The Sun how he fantasised about Meghan parading through the streets naked and having “excrement” thrown at her, sparking mass outrage and thousands of complaints.
While a number of MPs have said condemned his actions, Donelan said she would “defend his right to be able to say what he wants”.
The culture secretary, who is currently rolling out the Online Safety Bill, spoke on the BBC’s The News Agents about whether Clarkson’s comments could receive consequences under the bill.
“We shouldn’t be gagging commentators or journalists,” Donelan said, suggesting that we should “challenge”, “force apologies” and “make them think again”.
She continued: “Of course we all have a responsibility when we use our words to think about the words that we’re using.
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“Did Jeremy Clarkson make a mistake? Yes, he did. But he certainly shouldn’t be outlawed or censored. That’s down to the individual to think about what they’re saying and doing.”
Clarkson’s comments about hating Markle on a “cellular level” alongside his graphic descriptions were heavily condemned by people across the media.
His own daughter, Caroline Flack’s mum, Prince Harry and many others all called for serious consequences for the harmful rhetoric.
The Sun removed the column from its website, and Clarkson said he was “horrified to have caused so much hurt”. He did not, however, apologise to Meghan.
Donelan said his words “weren’t illegal, they were outrageous”.
“He faced a great outcry following them, and he had to apologise very publicly. But I do think what we’re talking about here as well, especially, [is] we’re talking about kids seeing content that promotes suicide, self-harm, sexual abuse,” she added.
“These are dreadful, horrendous things we’ve got to shut down. While we can all criticise Clarkson for what he said, I don’t think we should be comparing apples with pears; I don’t think that’s most helpful.”
A letter written by MP Caroline Nokes and signed by cross-parliamentary MPs pointed out the real-life dangers that can result from language like Clarkson’s.
“We are deeply concerned about the role modelling being promoted to young men and boys, that they can verbally attack women without a consequence or that it is okay to use violent language to address a woman you might disagree with,” the letter, addressed to to The Sun’s editor, read.
“We further demand definitive action is taken to ensure no article like this is ever published again.”
Clarkson issued his own non-apology saying he had “put his foot in it” and would be “more careful” in the future.
The Sun added: “We realise that with free expression comes responsibility. We at The Sun regret the publication of this article and we are sincerely sorry.”
The apology was rejected by the Duke and Duchess of Sussex who called it “nothing more than a PR stunt”.
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