Piers Morgan's most controversial career moments: 6 times the TV host and journalist sparked outrage

His Meghan Markle comments might be the latest controversy, but it certainly isn't the first

Journalist and television presenter Piers Morgan takes his daughter Elise to school, after he left his high-profile breakfast slot with the broadcaster ITV, following his long-running criticism of Prince Harry's wife Meghan, in London, Britain, March 10, 2021. REUTERS/Toby Melville

When Piers Morgan stormed off the set of Good Morning Britain live on air on Tuesday morning, it turned out it would be for good.

The British journalist and television host was called out by weather presenter Alex Beresford for his comments the previous day following Meghan Markle's interview with Oprah Winfrey, in which he claimed he "did not believe a word" when the Duchess of Sussex said she felt suicidal while pregnant with son Archie.

His comments, plus more than 41,000 complaints received by broadcasting regulatory body Ofcom, was enough to spell the end of his six-year stint as anchor on the morning news show.

In a statement released on Tuesday evening, an ITV representative said: "Following discussions with ITV, Piers Morgan has decided now is the time to leave Good Morning Britain. ITV has accepted this decision and has nothing further to add."

On Wednesday morning, Morgan said he stood by his comments. “On Monday, I said I didn’t believe Meghan Markle in her Oprah interview. I’ve had time to reflect on this opinion, and I still don’t,” he said in a tweet. “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.”

Much like Morgan himself, the news has been divisive. Many who were outraged by his latest comments about the duchess – and the many that came before – celebrated the news on Twitter.

“It should not have taken Piers Morgan essentially calling a woman a liar for discussing her suicidal thoughts for ITV to have sacked him. Why wasn't the years of attacking Markle enough? Or the transphobia? Or the sexism? Or, you know, his years of professional ineptitude?,” writer and critic Kayleigh Donaldson said in a tweet.

Actress and podcast host Katy Stoll said: “Even if the only thing the Oprah interview accomplishes is Piers Morgan quitting his show, that will still be a win.”

Many of Morgan’s celebrity peers, however, expressed their support after news of his departure.

Sharon Osbourne, who was a judge alongside Morgan on America's Got Talent, said: "Piers Morgan I am with you. I stand by you. People forget that you're paid for your opinion and that you're just speaking your truth."

While former footballer and pundit Gary Lineker said: “Whether it’s a football manager, a television presenter or any profession for that matter, it’s always sad when someone loses their job. Piers Morgan is excellent at what he does and I’m sure he’ll be back on the telly soon.”

Controversy has been a cornerstone of Morgan’s career. In fact, he has openly admitted to thriving off it.

"I like arguing with people, I like controversy, I like being at the centre of a firestorm," he said in an interview with The Sunday Times in 2020. "But there's also, for me, now a sense of self-awareness. Looking back on some of my antics through the last few years, I think a lot of it was just blaaaaah."

Here, we look back at five more divisive career moments.

Piers Morgan’s most controversial moments

Fake torture pictures

Before making the move into television, Morgan spent eight-and-a-half years as editor of British tabloid the Daily Mirror. He was sacked in 2004 after the paper ran front-page pictures supposedly showing the Queen's Lancashire Regiment of the British Army torturing prisoners of war in Iraq.

The pictures, which were sent to the newspaper and ran as exclusive, turned out to be fake, resulting in a front-page retraction and, ultimately, Morgan’s termination.

Speaking of the incident in an interview with Politico in 2013, Morgan said he was sacked after refusing to personally apologise. "To this day, nobody has ever produced hard evidence to me that they were fake photographs," he said.

“I was fired. I refuse to apologise. And I refuse to accept that they were necessarily fakes. To this day, nobody has ever been prosecuted for it. They never found out who took the pictures. They arrested somebody, a soldier, but at the last minute, rather than go through with the prosecution and the faking of the pictures, they chose him as a prosecution witness in another torture case, thereby implying that he had credibility. I will apologise if firm evidence ever materialises that they were 100 per cent fake.”

‘Utterly unpersuasive’ phone hacking comments

While Morgan has always denied any involvement in the phone hacking scandal that embroiled the British media in 2011, he was in charge of the Daily Mirror at the time the paper was implicated. Morgan denied having ever hacked a phone or, "to my knowledge, published any story obtained from the hacking of a phone".

In the findings of the Leveson Inquiry into the scandal, released the following year, Justice Sir Brian Leveson stated that some comments made in Morgan's testimony were "utterly unpersuasive". He noted that Morgan was "aware that it was taking place in the press as a whole" and that he was so "sufficiently unembarrassed by what was criminal behaviour that he was prepared to joke about it".

Leveson's comments were made in reference to a 2007 article, published in the Press Gazette, in which Morgan said that phone hacking was an "investigative practice that everyone knows was going on at almost every paper in Fleet Street for years".

CNN show axed

Following a move to the US, Morgan was named as Larry King's replacement for CNN's evening line-up in 2011, with the launch of Piers Morgan Live. After three years of mediocre reviews and a string of controversies, the show was axed in 2014 because of poor ratings.

He failed to connect with an American audience, partly because he wasn’t one, and partly because of his staunch views on gun regulation, which saw him engage in a number of heated and controversial debates on air.

"I'm in danger of being the guy down at the end of the bar who is always going on about the same thing," he said in an interview with The New York Times after the show was axed.

He said he was sure people were unimpressed by “this British guy telling them how to lead their lives and what they should do with their guns … there is no doubt that there are many in the audience who are tired of me banging on about it."

Sexism claims

Morgan took on the role as Good Morning Britain presenter alongside Susanna Reid in 2015, and prided himself on being "like Marmite", that is, you either love him or you hate him. His time on the show saw his controversial comments make headlines on numerous occasions, including in 2020, when he was accused of "humiliating" the show's weather reporter, Laura Tobin, by making "sexist" comments on air about her outfit.

Addressing Tobin’s leather trousers, Morgan said, "can we talk about your hot pants for a second", leaving her looking uncomfortable. He went on to accuse her of "parading" around in "skintight leather hot pants", saying: "When a female presenter parades herself in skintight leather trousers to do the weather, you are going to get people going: 'wow'.”

The show received numerous complaints over the comments, with viewers saying Tobin should be able to wear whatever she likes.

However, Morgan refused to apologise. "If she is going to wear figure-hugging leather trousers I am going to notice," he later said. "You deliberately wore them to get people to notice; all of you wear clothes hoping they will get noticed.

"If I call you hot, why is that offensive?"

Accused of ‘mocking’ Chinese people

In a GMB segment discussing Peter Phillips, grandson of Queen Elizabeth II, last year, Morgan was called out on social media for impersonating Chinese people.

The presenter was referring to Phillips’s appearance in a Chinese television advert to promote milk, when he appeared to mock the Chinese language. After claiming that Phillips had “exploited” his royal status, he said: “At the next royal event, can you imagine Christmas at Sandringham is like, 'I'm sorry your majesty, but I only drink yang yank yong ying ming milk'."

As the advert was played again, he said: "OK then, ching chang chong, OK I got it."

Reid, his co-host, called him out for his “rather 1970s” comments.

However, Morgan added: "Surely you can take the mickey out of it! He’s using ching chang chong milk from the Chinese state – that’s what they said in the advert!"

Following hundreds of Ofcom complaints and negative reaction on social media, Morgan said in a tweet: “I was mocking a member of the British royal family appearing in an advert for Chinese state milk, not Chinese people.”

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Prince Harry and Meghan Markle's Oprah interview in numbers