As you’ve no doubt heard, Piers Morgan walked off the show Good Morning Britain the other day. Ed wrote about the situation and pointed out that even if you strongly disagree with Morgan’s take on Megan Markle, the idea that he could be investigated by the government for doubting her claims on air seems pretty absurd.
Yesterday, Megyn Kelly went on BBC News and defended Morgan while also saying that she didn’t completely agree with him. It was an interesting exchange because of the culture clash between British and American views of free speech.
Asked why she was supporting Morgan, Kelly replied, “I think we need more people who are willing to push boundaries, not less, on the air. And we’re just cracking down on free speech in a way that I find really alarming.”
The BBC interviewer, Reeta Chakrabarti, pushed back. “No one would question his right to have an opinion, they would question his right to express it as a journalist on television,” she said. She asked Kelly if it wasn’t the responsibility of journalists to remain impartial when reporting. But as Kelly correctly points out, that’s not really Piers Morgan’s brand. He’s been an outspoken commentator on lots of issues for many years at this point. Surely Good Morning Britain knew that when it hired him.
Chakrabarti mentioned there had been 40,000 complaints from the public about Morgan’s comments. But Kelly’s response was essentially, so what? “They broke records for their viewership, they had millions of people tuning in, so it’s like, 40,000…Okay,” Kelly said. “You can’t give a heckler’s veto,” she added. “I don’t think people being offended, you know some faction of a huge audience being offended should cancel somebodies right to speak out.”
Toward the end of this, Chakrabarti came back to the idea that things are just different in Britain where journalists are expected to be neutral whereas things were somewhat different in America. Kelly didn’t really disagree and was mildly critical of the way Britain involves the government in managing the media. “We’re pretty big on free speech over here so I don’t like the idea of government tapping me on the shoulder to say, ‘I don’t like the way you said that.'”
What’s striking to me is how similar the whole debate over Piers Morgan is to the one going on here involving Tucker Carlson and Taylor Lorenz. In both cases there is a successful woman with a lot of media influence claiming to be a victim and a man on television is calling that victimization into question or at least trying to put it in some perspective. In both cases there is a push to denounce and silence the man for doing so. We don’t have Ofcom here (the regulator in Britain that is looking into Piers Morgan) but we do have plenty of progressive activists more than willing to try to silence Tucker Carlson or anyone else who says something they don’t like.
Maybe America and Britain are less different than they used to be when it comes to free speech.