Prince con­demns me­dia ‘abuse’ of girl­friend

Daily Freeman (Kingston, NY) - - OBITUARIES -

It’s the Bri­tish roy­als ver­sus the press — again — and Prince Harry thinks enough is enough.

In a highly un­usual state­ment, the prince on Tues­day lashed out at the me­dia for in­trud­ing on the pri­vacy of his new girl­friend, Amer­i­can ac­tress Meghan Markle. The 32-year-old royal said the press had crossed a line with ar­ti­cles that had “racial un­der­tones,” and pleaded: “This is not a game.”

The con­dem­na­tion was the lat­est in an of­ten un­easy dance be­tween Bri­tain’s roy­als and an in­ter­na­tional press hun­gry for any tid­bit about royal scan­dal or courtship. Both Harry and his brother, Prince Wil­liam, have spo­ken can­didly about their dis­trust of the me­dia: Their mother, Princess Diana, died in a 1997 car ac­ci­dent while be­ing pur­sued by pa­parazzi, and Wil­liam’s wife, Kate, was re­lent­lessly scru­ti­nized for years be­fore the cou­ple mar­ried in 2011.

It looks like noth­ing has changed.

Kens­ing­ton Palace de­scribed how jour­nal­ists tried to break into Markle’s home, how news­pa­pers of­fered “sub­stan­tial bribes” to her ex-boyfriend, and said nearly ev­ery­one she knows has been bom­barded for in­for­ma­tion. Markle’s mother couldn’t even get to her front door without jostling re­porters.

“What is ex­tra­or­di­nary about this let­ter is the level of eth­i­cal con­duct breaches it de­tails,” said Steven Bar­nett, a com­mu­ni­ca­tions pro­fes­sor at the Uni­ver­sity of West­min­ster. “You have to feel some­thing for Harry, who is pre­sum­ably think­ing of his mother and what she had to put up with.”

Markle, 35, is best known for her role as a feisty para­le­gal in the U.S. tele­vi­sion drama “Suits.”

Many tabloids al­luded to her mixed-race her­itage — she has an African-Amer­i­can mother and a white fa­ther. One Daily Mail head­line de­scribed her an­ces­tors as “a tai­lor, a teacher and a cleaner in racially-di­vided Jim Crow South.” An­other dubbed her a “saucy di­vorcee.”

The Daily Mir­ror linked Markle with an on­line pornog­ra­phy site, say­ing clips of her from “Suits” fea­tured on the adult site.

Markle has so far not re­sponded, but has in the past writ­ten about how she came to terms with be­ing a “bira­cial woman.”

“While my mixed her­itage may have cre­ated a gray area sur­round­ing my self-iden­ti­fi­ca­tion, keep­ing me with a foot on both sides of the fence, I have come to em­brace that,” she wrote in an es­say for Elle magazine in 2015.

Royal of­fi­cials said the ha­rass­ment has “been very pub­lic,” cit­ing “the smear on the front page of a na­tional news­pa­per; the racial un­der­tones of com­ment pieces; and the out­right sex­ism and racism of so­cial me­dia trolls and web ar­ti­cle com­ments.”

Harry said the com­men­ta­tors will say this is “the price she has to pay” and “this is all part of the game.” But, the palace said, Harry “strongly dis­agrees.”

“This is not a game — it is her life and his,” the state­ment said.

Of­fi­cials had ini­tially de­clined com­ment on wide­spread me­dia spec­u­la­tion that Harry and Markle were dat­ing, as per its usual pol­icy of si­lence in re­gard to the per­sonal lives of the royal fam­ily. But in­creas­ingly the palace has been go­ing on the of­fen­sive be­cause the world of blogs and so­cial me­dia can do more rep­u­ta­tional dam­age, and do it more quickly, than tra­di­tional me­dia.

“As time goes on, the royal fam­ily has some­times been re­ally puz­zled about how to re­spond to press cov­er­age — should they ig­nore or seek to en­gage them?” said James Rodger, a jour­nal­ism lec­turer at City Uni­ver­sity Lon­don. “This is a re­flec­tion of an evolv­ing prob­lem, es­pe­cially with chang­ing so­cial at­ti­tudes and me­dia.”

Harry has been linked to a num­ber of women in the past, in­clud­ing an­other ac­tress, Cres­sida Bonas. Me­dia in­tru­sion was also seen as hav­ing hurt that re­la­tion­ship. In 2012, he spoke of the dif­fi­cul­ties of find­ing a part­ner will­ing to take on the re­spon­si­bil­i­ties of be­ing a royal.

Harry said Tues­day’s state­ment was is­sued in hopes that the me­dia “can pause and re­flect be­fore any fur­ther dam­age is done.” But in con­firm­ing his ro­mance with the Amer­i­can ac­tress, the royal also made a very per­sonal re­la­tion­ship pub­lic — and there’s no turn­ing back now.

Bar­nett, at West­min­ster Uni­ver­sity, said there wasn’t much the roy­als could do in the face of a ram­bunc­tious press. De­spite re­cent in­quiries into me­dia ethics trig­gered by tabloid phone­hack­ing al­le­ga­tions, Bar­nett said Bri­tish news out­lets re­main as ag­gres­sive as ever.

“All you can do is throw your­self at their mercy,” he said.

AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS FILE PHO­TOS

Ac­tress Meghan Markle, the girl­friend of Bri­tain’s Prince Harry, is shown in March.

Prince Harry is shown in July.

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