Prince William defends royals: 'We're not a racist family'

Duke of Cambridge to speak to Prince Harry after bombshell Oprah Winfrey interview

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The Duke of Cambridge defended the royal family against allegations of racism after the Duke and Duchess of Sussex claimed a family member expressed concern about the skin colour of their unborn son.

Prince William said he had not spoken to his brother, but went on to say: "We’re very much not a racist family" during a visit to an east London school on Thursday, when questioned by reporters.

The allegations of racism broadcast in the Oprah Winfrey interview sent shockwaves through the British establishment.

The duchess said Prince Harry was asked by an unnamed family member "how dark" Archie's skin tone would be.

Buckingham Palace said the claims were concerning and promised the matter would be discussed within the family.

The palace statement said that "some recollections may vary" on the claims made.

Prince William was joined by his wife Catherine, the Duchess of Cambridge, on a tour of School21 in Stratford to mark the return of children to classes this week.

The visit was also used to highlight the expansion of a mental health programme to secondary schools launched by the duchess in 2018.

As Prince William left the school he was asked: “Is the royal family a racist family, sir?”

The duke, with the duchess by his side, replied: “We’re very much not a racist family.”

He was asked whether there has been any communication between the royal brothers, whose relationship is troubled.

The duke said: “No, I haven’t spoken to him yet, but I will do.”

Prince William's comments are the first time a member of the royal family has spoken publicly about the claims raised in the Winfrey interview, which broadcast in the UK on Monday.

In the two-hour interview, the duchess said while she was pregnant she and Prince Harry were told of "concerns and conversations about how dark his skin might be when he is born".

William and Kate visit London school – in pictures 

The revelation floored Winfrey, who responded: "What?"

Asked whether there were concerns the child would be “too brown” and that would be a problem, Meghan told Winfrey: “If that is the assumption you are making, that is a pretty safe one.”

Winfrey pressed Meghan to reveal names, but the duchess declined.

"I think that would be very damaging to them," she said.

The royal couple later made clear that Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip were not involved in the conversations.

Claims of racism also ricocheted through the British press.  On Wednesday, the executive director of an industry body resigned after a growing backlash against his reaction to the interview.

Ian Murray will step down from the Society of Editors after he rejected Prince Harry’s claims that the press was racist and bigoted.

Two prominent newspaper editors, Katherine Viner of The Guardian and Roula Khalaf of the Financial Times, said they did not agree with the society's position.

ITV news anchor Charlene White dropped out of hosting the society’s National Press Awards, and a string of nominees said they did not wish to be considered for the ceremony. White said the organisation should find “someone whose views align with yours” to replace her.

Announcing his resignation, Murray said he would leave so the society could “rebuild its reputation”.

"Since the statement was issued the SoE has been heavily criticised,” he said on Wednesday

"While I do not agree that the society's statement was in any way intended to defend racism, I accept it could have been much clearer in its condemnation of bigotry and has clearly caused upset.

"As executive director I lead the society and as such must take the blame and so I have decided it is best for the board and membership that I step aside so that the organisation can start to rebuild its reputation."

Harry and Meghan told Winfrey in the interview broadcast on Monday that negative press coverage was driven by the new royal’s mixed race and contributed to her decision to leave the UK in 2020.

“From the beginning of our relationship, they were attacking and inciting so much racism,” she said.

The duchess compared her treatment with that of the Duchess of Cambridge, whose press coverage was generally more positive.

Murray on Monday strongly rejected the claims, saying they were “not acceptable” and made without “supporting evidence”.

He said the UK press had a “proud record of calling out racism” and the tone of tabloid coverage was simply driven by “holding a spotlight up to those in positions of power, celebrity or influence”.

Murray said his initial comments were "not intended to gloss over the fact the media industry in the UK does have work to do on inclusivity and diversity".

It is understood that several members of the board spoke to Murray on Wednesday, with his position becoming untenable after organisations began pulling out of the awards – a key source of funding for the industry body.

About 236 journalists of colour from the Guardian, Metro, The New York Times, the BBC and others, signed an open letter expressing their dismay.

Harry and Meghan's interview also led to the sudden exit of Piers Morgan, who quit as host of Good Morning Britain on Tuesday after his fierce criticism of the duchess the day before prompted 41,000 complaints to the media regulator.

FILE - This image provided by Harpo Productions shows Prince Harry, from left, and Meghan, Duchess of Sussex, in conversation with Oprah Winfrey. Almost as soon as the interview aired, many were quick to deny Meghan’s allegations of racism on social media. Many say it was painful to watch Meghan's experiences with racism invalidated by the royal family, members of the media and the public, offering up yet another example of a Black woman's experience being disregarded and denied. (Joe Pugliese/Harpo Productions via AP, File)

The duchess was understood to have complained directly to ITV bosses over his comments.

Marcus Ryder, visiting professor of media diversity at Birmingham City University, said the royal couple’s interview exposed “serious fault lines” in British race relations.

"And so I hope that one of the consequences of the last few days is that we have a more intelligent and more informed analysis. That isn't happening yet – there seems to be a lot more smoke and a lot less light, a lot more noise and not enough signal," he told The National.

“The specifics are that Britain needs to do better – this isn't just to do with Meghan Markle and the royal family.”

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