Meghan Markle hits out at tabloid headlines that fuel racism in new podcast

The Duchess of Sussex arrives for the State Funeral of Queen Elizabeth II, held at Westminster Abbey, London. Picture date: Monday September 19, 2022.
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Meghan Markle has said headlines in the tabloid press "make an imprint" that can help fuel racial bias and unconscious stereotypes.

Speaking on a new episode of her podcast Archetypes, the Duchess of Sussex said that even when people say: "Oh, I never read stories, I never read tabloids" they "still see the headline".

Meghan has had an uncomfortable relationship with the press since she started dating Harry in 2016.

LONDON, ENGLAND - NOVEMBER 27:  Prince Harry and actress Meghan Markle during an official photocall to announce their engagement at The Sunken Gardens at Kensington Palace on November 27, 2017 in London, England.  Prince Harry and Meghan Markle have been a couple officially since November 2016 and are due to marry in Spring 2018.  (Photo by Chris Jackson/Chris Jackson/Getty Images)
Harry and Meghan announce their engagement in Kensington Palace in 2017. (Getty Images)

In November of that year, Harry released an extraordinary statement in which he confirmed the relationship and said his girlfriend had "been subject to a wave of abuse and harassment". The statement specifically addressed alleged behaviour by some elements of press, criticising "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".

Plus, "the nightly legal battles to keep defamatory stories out of papers; her mother having to struggle past photographers in order to get to her front door; the attempts of reporters and photographers to gain illegal entry to her home and the calls to police that followed; the substantial bribes offered by papers to her ex-boyfriend; the bombardment of nearly every friend, co-worker, and loved one in her life."

THE HAGUE, NETHERLANDS - APRIL 15: Meghan, Duchess of Sussex attends the Invictus Games Friends and Family reception at Zuiderpark on April 15, 2022 in The Hague, Netherlands. (Photo by Karwai Tang/WireImage)
Meghan attends the Invictus Games Friends and Family reception in The Hague, Netherlands, 2022. (Getty Images)

In the podcast episode, which featured US stand-up comedian Margaret Cho, Meghan said that people "might not know where this unconscious bias or this stereotype you have in your head about someone comes from, but if you start to peel back the layers and you understand where it got planted then you can understand how we get to that point."

The comments were made within a wider conversation about "toxic" tropes and stereotypes of Asian women and the real life danger these ideas can produce.

Cho discussed the "framing" of the Atlanta spa shootings last year in the media, saying "the framing of it was that they were dragon ladies".

She argued that even though that specific phrase had not been used in the media coverage, the assumptions surrounding "massage parlours or Asian spas" have become "almost like [a] shorthand" for the fetishisation of Asian women. She also argued this is born out of the "fantasy of Orientalism" which implies "an inherent threat" exists in Asian women and that they are "beautiful and deadly".

"The weirdness of these old archetypes — the dragon lady — still holds true even in news coverage," Cho also said regarding the shooting, during which eight people were killed.

Meghan is not alone in her beliefs the headlines and press coverage can be powerful tools in creating racial prejudice.

THE KELLY CLARKSON SHOW -- Episode 1159 -- Pictured: Margaret Cho -- (Photo by: Weiss Eubanks/NBCUniversal/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images)
Margaret Cho on set of the Kelly Clarkson Show in June. (Getty Images)

In 2016, the European Commission for Racism and Intolerance (ECRI) published a report which found that, in Britain, "hate speech in some traditional media continues to be a serious problem, notably as concerns tabloid newspapers".

"Certain tabloid newspapers," the report also notes, "are responsible for most of the offensive, discriminatory and provocative terminology".

Two UK newspapers – the Daily Mail and The Sun – were specifically mentioned for their "inflammatory" and "unscrupulous press reporting."

Meghan and Harry have continued to take on the established UK press in recent years.

TOPSHOT - Britain's Meghan, Duchess of Sussex and Britain's Prince Harry, Duke of Sussex, react as they attend the annual One Young World Summit at Bridgewater Hall in Manchester, north-west England on September 5, 2022. - The One Young World Summit is a global forum for young leaders, bringing together young people from over 190 countries around the world to come together to confront the biggest challenges facing humanity. (Photo by Oli SCARFF / AFP) (Photo by OLI SCARFF/AFP via Getty Images)
Meghan and Harry at the One Young World Summit in Manchester, 2022. (Getty Images)

In 2019, Harry announced he was taking action against the owners of The Sun, The Mirror and the defunct News of the World, for alleged phone hacking

Also in 2019, another statement from Harry announced that the couple was taking legal action against Associated Newspapers Limited (ANL) — the parent company of the Mail on Sunday.

At the core of the legal action was a letter Meghan had written to her father, which was later published in the Mail on Sunday.

After a nearly three-year long legal battle, Meghan won her suit against ANL, when the company's appeal was dismissed in December last year.

A man holds a copy of the Mail on Sunday with a printed a statement on page three acknowledging that the Duchess of Sussex won her copyright claim against the newspaper's publisher. The statement, under the heading
The statement that the Mail of Sunday were obliged to print after Meghan won her suit against ANL, 2021. (Getty Images)

For misuse of private information, the duchess received only £1 in damages. However, the amount paid to Meghan for infringement of copyright, was not disclosed at the time.

In a statement after ANL's appeal was rejected, Meghan said: "From day one, I have treated this lawsuit as an important measure of right versus wrong. [ANL] has treated it as a game with no rules."

The tabloids, she also said, are an "industry that conditions people to be cruel".