Piers Morgan: I'm not the free-speech hero you want, but I'm the free-speech hero you need

I fear Piers Morgan might be correct, but he shouldn’t be. Fresh off a walkout from Good Morning Britain, Morgan declared his belief in freedom of speech and continued to criticize Meghan Markle after her interview with Harry Windsor by Oprah Winfrey. Morgan told reporters this morning that people should not get too comfortable with his absence, lest they find themselves disappointed in his re-emergence:

Morgan spoke to reporters Wednesday in London after walking out of the show amid the ongoing blow-up over his scathing commentary. He called the situation a matter of freedom of speech and said people are free to believe Markle’s bombshell allegations, but “I don’t believe almost anything that comes out of her mouth.”

“I think the damage she’s done to the British monarchy and to the Queen at a time when Prince Philip is lying in hospital is enormous and frankly contemptible,” Morgan said. “If I have to fall on my sword for expressing an honestly-held opinion about Meghan Markle and that diatribe of bilge that she came out within that interview, so be it.” …

“I think it’s fair to say, although the woke crowd will think that they’ve cancelled me, I think they will be rather disappointed when I re-emerge,” Morgan said.

That’s a marvelous defense about free speech, but Morgan didn’t fall on his sword as much as he tossed it away. That makes this previous tweet just a wee bit ironic:

Bear in mind that Morgan walked off the set of Good Morning Britain in the middle of, y’know, a speech by his co-host criticizing Morgan for letting his personal tiff with Markle cloud his judgment. Morgan apparently found that speech to be an outrage, enough so that he walked off his high-profile media perch. Why not just answer the criticisms on air? It’s not as though Morgan was a guest with limited time in a single segment, after all.

However, free-speech martyrdom may be thrust upon him anyway. Thousands of Britons complain to the UK’s media regulator Ofcom over Morgan’s remarks about Markle, and the former royal filed a formal complaint with ITV. The Ofcom complaints could result in serious penalties — even for offering an opinion:

On Monday’s edition of “Good Morning Britain,” Morgan questioned whether the Duchess was being truthful about having suicidal thoughts. His comments sparked a huge controversy in Britain, and he was rebuked by mental health charity Mind.

UK media regulator Ofcom said it had received over 41,000 complaints about Monday’s edition of “Good Morning Britain,” and had launched an investigation under its “harm and offence rules.”

On Wednesday, Morgan said that he “still” does not believe Meghan.

“I’ve had time to reflect on this opinion, and I still don’t [believe her],” Morgan tweeted. “If you did, OK. Freedom of speech is a hill I’m happy to die on. Thanks for all the love, and hate. I’m off to spend more time with my opinions.”

CNN’s report frames this incorrectly in one part. Morgan never scoffed at mental-health issues; Morgan said he didn’t believe Markle’s claim to have them. That’s opinion, and that kind of statement would be fully protected in the US. In the UK and in most other countries however, people can be punished by government for expressing unpopular opinions, and Morgan faces a real legal risk with Ofcom’s investigation.

Jake Tapper tried to make that point on Twitter yesterday, and got shredded (but not ratioed) for his defense of free speech:

“Insanity” comes to mind for me as well. Markle chose to make herself a very public person, even after formally leaving the royal family. Why should she be protected against criticism of her public speech? Whether or not Morgan’s wise or correct, he should be able to speak his mind … as should his co-host.

As my pal and colleague Katie Pavlich said yesterday, perhaps Morgan should come back to the US, where we still have freedom of speech … for now, anyway. And perhaps Morgan’s experiences with the lack of a First Amendment might make him a bit more sympathetic to the necessity of the Second Amendment if Morgan makes his way back to the US after this.

Update: I misspelled Ms. Markle’s last name throughout the original post. I have corrected it now and apologize for the error.