Culture secretary Michelle Donelan has spoken out about Jeremy Clarkson’s controversial comments on Meghan Markle in his recent column for The Sun, saying “we shouldn’t be gagging journalists”.
In the now-deleted column, the Grand Tour host wrote that he “hated Meghan Markle on a cellular level” and that he “dreams of the day when she is made to parade naked through the streets of every town in Britain while the crowds chant, ‘Shame!’ and throw lumps of excrement at her.”
Donelan has been appearing in the media recently to discuss the UK’s Online Safety Bill, which is meant to prevent websites from showing any illegal or harmful material. During an appearance on The Newsagents podcast, Donelan spoke about the former Top Gear hosts column. She said:
“But what we can do, is people can air their opinions against views. They can challenge them. They can force apologies. They can make them think again. And of course we all have a responsibility when we use our words to think about the words that we’re using. Did Jeremy Clarkson make a mistake? Yes, he did. But he certainly shouldn’t be outlawed or censored. That’s down to the individual to think about what they’re saying and doing.”
The podcast host, Emily Maitlis, went on to quiz Donelan on how the lines could be blurred between being for freedom of speech in the press but against online harm. Maitlis said:
“I’m just trying to work out how arbitrary it is to say, ‘Press freedom’s fine, but online harm is terrible and we’ve got to stop that,’ when it’s quite often the same content.’”
“They weren’t illegal, they were outrageous. And he faced a great outcry following them, and he had to apologise very publicly. But I do think what we’re talking about here as well, especially, [is] we’re talking about kids seeing content that promotes suicide, self-harm, sexual abuse. These are dreadful, horrendous things we’ve got to shut down. While we can all criticise Clarkson for what he said, I don’t think we should be comparing apples with pears; I don’t think that’s most helpful.”
The Independent Press Standards Organisation (IPSO) revealed that Clarkson’s column broke records with the number of complaints it received in the short time it was published.