March 10, 2021

Piers Morgan has taken on the role of professional wrestling heel in the aftermath of Harry and Meghan’s interview with Oprah Winfrey. All that has been missing is an ominous theme song and a few foreign objects to use as he jumps off the top turnbuckle.

On Monday, the former and failed CNN host fiercely defended the royal family while slamming Prince Harry and Meghan, Duchess of Sussex, especially Meghan. He went bonkers on Twitter, wrote a lengthy column for a British tabloid and went off while co-hosting “Good Morning Britain.” The gist was he thought Meghan was making up a lot of what she said. At one point, he said, “I’m sorry, I don’t believe a word she said, Meghan Markle. I wouldn’t believe it if she read me a weather report.”

Much of it seemed to stem from the fact that Meghan doesn’t give Morgan the time of day. (The Wrap’s Andi Ortiz had a piece about the history of Morgan’s vitriol toward Meghan.) And while he certainly is entitled to his opinions, he came off as petulant and vindictive and just downright mean.

Then, when he got blasted for going all bad guy, he tried to play victim, tweeting, “… just another reminder that anyone who criticises Meghan Markle is automatically deemed a racist bully.”

On Tuesday, he walked off the set of “Good Morning Britain” when co-host Alex Beresford criticized him for his “diabolical” outbursts against Meghan. Here’s the clip. He returned about 10 minutes later.

Then it all came crashing down.

Later Tuesday, it was announced that Morgan was leaving “Good Morning Britain.” In a statement, ITV, which airs the show, said it was Morgan’s decision and that it had “nothing further to add.”

Ofcom — the government-approved regulatory and competition authority for the broadcasting, telecommunications and postal industries of the U.K. — said Tuesday it was launching an investigation after receiving more than 41,000 complaints about comments Morgan made about Harry and Meghan.

On Tuesday’s “Good Morning Britain,” Morgan said he still had “concerns about the veracity” of much of what Meghan said. But he seemed to walk back on questioning things she said about her mental well-being, saying it was “not for me to question if she felt suicidal.”

It hardly matters what he thinks now that he is no longer with “Good Morning Britain.” Although, don’t be shocked if some American TV network pathetically invites him on to whine about “cancel culture.”

This, ultimately, isn’t “cancel culture” as much as it is “consequence culture.” There’s nothing wrong with having strong opinions and it’s his choice if he wants to play the villain. But he can’t get upset when the crowd jeers his antics and then cheers his departure.

Behind the scenes

How did CBS land Oprah Winfrey’s interview with Harry and Meghan? Meg James dug into some of the details for her story in the Los Angeles Times.

The interview was actually produced and is owned by Winfrey’s company Harpo Productions. James reported that it helped that CBS maintained a good relationship with Winfrey after it used to distribute her daytime talk show. In addition, Winfrey did do some work for CBS’s “60 Minutes” and is close friends with Gayle King, who, as co-host of “CBS This Morning,” is one of CBS News’ most powerful figures.

James also mentioned Harry’s friendship with CBS late-night host James Corden. Harry appeared on Corden’s show earlier this month.

CBS paid $8 million for the right to air the interview. CBS will show the interview again Friday night from 8 to 10 p.m. Eastern.

Oh, and a final thought today on the interview itself, as pointed out by a reader of this newsletter. The setting — the lawn of an unnamed neighbor of Winfrey (as well as Harry and Meghan) — was beautiful and serene, although in no way distracting for the viewer. The sound was crystal clear. The result was that the viewer was able to focus on the actual interview because the video and audio were perfect.

Lead of the day

The newspaper lead that was getting quite the buzz Tuesday was from The Irish Times’ Patrick Freyne, who was writing about Harry and Meghan’s interview. Check it out:

“Having a monarchy next door is a little like having a neighbour who’s really into clowns and has daubed their house with clown murals, displays clown dolls in each window and has an insatiable desire to hear about and discuss clown-related news stories. More specifically, for the Irish, it’s like having a neighbour who’s really into clowns and, also, your grandfather was murdered by a clown.”

Layoffs at HuffPost

Last November, BuzzFeed announced it was acquiring HuffPost in a stock deal with Verizon Media. At the time, BuzzFeed CEO Jonah Peretti said BuzzFeed and HuffPost would be run as “separate, distinct news organizations.” But even then there were fears that it could lead to cost-cutting down the road.

On Tuesday, three weeks after the deal was finalized, the ax lopped off a good chunk of HuffPost. Peretti announced layoffs impacting 47 U.S. staffers at HuffPost.

According to HuffPost’s Sara Boboltz, Peretti said the moves were made to “fast-track the path to profitability” for HuffPost.

Lydia Polgreen, the former editor-in-chief at HuffPost who is now at Gimlet Media, tweeted, “Some extraordinary journalists lost their jobs today. You should hire them. This is a remarkable team that has been through a lot, and it breaks my heart to see them face the axe again.”

Sadly, that’s not all. HuffPost Canada was shut down on Tuesday, as well, leaving 23 more without jobs.

BuzzFeed also managed to bungle the layoffs. According to Defector’s Laura Wagner, employees were given a password to enter the meeting. That password: spr!ngisH3r3 — basically another way to say “spring is here,” an insensitive sentiment given the news that was coming. In addition, staffers were then informed if they didn’t receive an email by 1 p.m. then their jobs were safe — another decision that added undue stress to an already stressful situation.

A BuzzFeed spokesperson told The New York Times’ Katie Robertson that the company regretted the password’s tone.

A legend dies

Veteran journalist Roger Mudd in 2001. (AP Photo/Marty Lederhandler, File)

A legendary journalist has died. Roger Mudd, a longtime political correspondent at CBS News as well as a reporter and anchor at NBC News, died Tuesday from complications due to kidney failure. He was 93.

Mudd was a trusted and regular CBS News presence on Capitol Hill during the 1960s and 1970s before moving over to NBC News in 1980 when he shared the “NBC Nightly News” anchor desk with Tom Brokaw for three years.

Mudd is known for covering many big stories over his career, including being at the Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles when Robert Kennedy was assassinated in 1968. However, his most famous moment might have been one question he asked during an interview with Ted Kennedy in 1979. Mudd asked him, “Why do you want to be president?”

Kennedy paused for several seconds before giving an answer, and then gave rambling answers to some of Mudd’s follow-up questions. As The Washington Post’s Matt Schudel wrote, “The interview remains one of the most devastating in political history. Kennedy — whose brother John was president and whose brother Robert was assassinated on the campaign trail — lost his bid for the nomination and never mounted a run for the presidency again.”

Check out Schudel’s detailed obit, as well as Robert D. McFadden’s obit of Mudd in The New York Times.

A COVID anniversary

(Courtesy: NBC News)

It has been a year since the country essentially shut down because of COVID-19. President Joe Biden is scheduled to address the nation Thursday night. Meanwhile, NBC will have a special “Dateline NBC” called “COVID One Year Later: Life After Lockdown” to mark the one-year anniversary. “NBC Nightly News” anchor Lester Holt and “Today” co-host Savannah Guthrie will anchor the special from the Lincoln Memorial. The special, which airs at 10 p.m. Eastern, will include an interview with Secretary of Treasury Janet Yellen on the economic toll of COVID-19, as well as updates on the vaccine from White House chief of staff Ron Klain.

Meanwhile, MSNBC has special programming planned for tonight and Thursday. Tonight at 8 p.m. Eastern, Nicolle Wallace will anchor “Lives Well Lived,” which will include interviews with those who have lost loved ones to COVID-19. Sen. Elizabeth Warren, whose brother died of COVID-19, is scheduled to join the show.

On Thursday, Chris Hayes will host “All In America: The Year We Meet Again.” The special will air at 8 p.m. Eastern and will include Biden’s address and then feature reports from across the country about the coronavirus.

Media tidbits

  • Writing for Northwestern Medill School of Journalism’s Local News Initiative, Hannah Farrow with “How Newsrooms Are Building Better Paywalls.”
  • Fox News’ anchor Martha MacCallum with a pretty stunning and irresponsible comment on air Tuesday: “I always think we’re going to look back at these studies and wonder about the true effectiveness of masks and whether or not they really did make a difference. I think that story continues to be studied and we’re learning more about it to be sure.” Wait, what? Maybe MacCallum was trying to talk about the mixed message on masks a year ago, and perhaps she merely wasn’t clear with what she was trying to get across. But it certainly came out badly. MacCallum said this during an interview with Dr. Brett Giroir, the former assistant secretary for health at the Department of Health and Human Services. Fortunately, later in the interview, Giroir followed up by saying, “I’m going to plug masks. I do believe masks work. They are still very important for us to wear when there’s outbreak areas.”
  • Sportsnet’s Chris Johnston reports that ESPN is believed to have reached a seven-year deal to become one of the National Hockey League’s media partners starting next season. The deal would include ESPN getting the rights to broadcast four Stanley Cup finals between 2022 and 2028, plus streaming rights for Disney. It’s possible and maybe even likely that ESPN will split American TV rights with at least one other media company. NBC Sports has exclusive NHL rights through this season. ESPN has not carried an NHL game on regular TV since 2004.
  • Another editor has left NewsNation. The New York Times’ Katie Robertson has the story.
  • The Trump campaign sued The New York Times for defamation over a 2019 opinion piece. But, on Tuesday, the New York Supreme Court dismissed the suit. Here’s the story from The Hill’s Mychael Schnell.

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Tom Jones is Poynter’s senior media writer for He was previously part of the Tampa Bay Times family during three stints over some 30…
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