The news of Piers Morgan leaving his job as co-host of the highly-rated Good Morning Britain show is already being treated across the pond in the United States as an episode of the draconian malpractice that is called Cancel Culture.
In England and the rest of the United Kingdom too, the feeling is not very different as the Wizard of Oz-esque concept has been mentioned in the wake of Morgan’s departure. In truth, we do not know if he quit or was giving his marching orders – ITV, the network, just said the parties ‘parted ways’.
One would suppose that any observer interprets these detail-deficient announcements according to the observer’s biases. Cancel Culture just happens to be the favorite target of those who have in the last decade felt they are impeded in their efforts of taking free speech to experimental extremities, causing both emotional and physical harm to some in a liberal society. That is not to suggest that there is no movement to stop prevent others whose opinions are unpopular from taking to certain platforms.
But the opposition to what is thought to be Cancel Culture is a whole package. In the “Stop Cancel Culture” camp, there are good-faith arguments and good-faith proponents for the right to free speech. There is also in this camp, those who take advantage of free speech just to push half-truths, lies, homophobia, misogyny and racism among others. Often, these bad faith elements overshadow those who hope free-speech is employed towards some dignified end.
Morgan himself was a fierce advocate of free speech. It does not seem like his media career is over and thus, there is no need to bet against the expectation that he will be back to his advocacy, probably soon. But the irony of his exit is that Morgan was involved in two separate shouting matches with two Black people over anti-Black racism in British society, which he has constantly moved to play down. After the telecast of Oprah Winfrey’s tell-all interview with Meghan Markle and Prince Harry, the point of racism, which reared its head, was not going to escape media rumination.
Morgan called Markle’s accusations of racism in the British royal family “lies”. He said the woman is conniving with her husband to disgrace not just the British monarchy but the monarch too. His exact words were “absolutely disgraceful betrayal”, while singling out Markle as the mastermind behind a capricious palace intrigue.
No one was surprised Morgan went after Markle. He has made it abundantly clear through the last few years that he absolutely loathes her. But did he hate her that much that he would underplay accusations of racism? That he would not feign the vaguest concern over the allegation that a royal once joked about what shade of skin color Markle and Harry’s baby will be?
Good Morning Britain invited Shola Mos-Shogbamimu, a regular guest on the show who is an academic and an activist. What producers thought would make for good TV also turned into an education for the confrontational and dismissive Morgan.
“I wish to God one day you even surprise me. You constantly use your platform as a wealthy, white, privileged man with power and influence to aggravate and escalate the bigoted sexist, racist and misogynist attacks on Meghan Markle. And you do it so shamelessly,” Mos-Shogbamimu told an interrupting Morgan.
It was loud and unorderly but it was one of the few times in his TV career that the former CNN host had been challenged on his presuppositions about racism. Morgan often prefers to assume the role of a know-it-all and he is not shy to tell an interviewee what is on his mind. Largely, it is a style you can appreciate from a journalist. But when a rich white man believes they know it all about anti-Black racism, there occurs an atmosphere that is difficult to navigate. And Morgan dismisses a lot, any sentiments about race that he finds unworthy.
To get a better picture of what he feels about racism, you would have to know that Morgan is a journalist who does not believe Donald Trump is racist and points to Trump’s friendships with Don King and Muhammad Ali as proof on non-racism.
As if he had not had enough education from Mos-Shogbamimu, Morgan had on Tuesday, Alex Beresford, the weather news presenter on Good Morning Britain, who happens to be part-Black. Beresford had taken issue on Twitter with Morgan’s relentless antipathy toward Markle before the interview was broadcast. Beresford and Morgan exchanged a few strong thoughts on the matter, with Beresford urging his then-colleague to divert his attention to Prince Andrew, the alleged pedophile at Buckingham Palace.
Beresford hit Morgan where it hurt when he was invited to talk about Markle, Morgan and racism. He brought up the time Markle refused to call Morgan back after the two went on a date in London a few years ago. This was not a revelation since Morgan himself has told the story over and over before. But Beresford implied that Morgan’s animosity stemmed from never getting called back by the woman who eventually married a prince. Morgan then walked off the set.
After describing Morgan’s conduct as “diabolical behavior”, Beresford also proceeded to touch on his own story about how he was asked “what shade of cocoa” his unborn son was going to be. The weatherman then brought up colorism in Britain and how white people feel more comfortable with mixed-race Brits than with thoroughly-Black Brits. You could tell the latter point had been his problem with Morgan all along – the idea that racism in Britain is not a far-fetched, unempirical notion. It is an everyday concept.
As someone who has also been asked what color his son was going to be, you can imagine what Beresford felt when Morgan rubbished the claim made by Markle. Beresford went on that set looking for blood and he found it.
We also learned yesterday from Ofcom, a British media regulator, that it had received more than 40,000 complaints about Morgan after Oprah’s interview. This was certainly no fault of the two Black people who confronted him. He brought this on himself.
To what extent were Mos-Shogbamimu and Beresford responsible for Morgan’s exit? We may never know but we can harness a good guess. Mos-Shogbamimu and Beresford said nothing different from what most Black people say when they have listened to Morgan open his mouth on anti-Black racism. But each of those two interlocutors also represents two separate constituencies: Mos-Shogbamimu, for anti-racism activists and Black people out there and Beresford, for what some ITV staff felt about Morgan’s opinions.
His defenders would say Morgan was a victim of Cancel Culture. That’s okay. But you would be sorry if you think that complaint was also not expressing worry about how much the fight against anti-Black racism is costing white Britain, white Europe and white America.