Piers Morgan storming off set on Good Morning Britain was not “manufactured”, ITV’s chief executive has said.
Morgan walked away from the cameras on Tuesday morning during a discussion about the Duchess of Sussex with his colleague, Alex Beresford.
Weather presenter Beresford defended the couple, who have made global headlines following their bombshell interview with Oprah Winfrey, and took Morgan to task, saying: “And I understand you’ve got a personal relationship with Meghan Markle, or had one, and she cut you off.
“She’s entitled to cut you off if she wants to. Has she said anything about you since she cut you off? I don’t think she has but yet you continue to trash her.”
Dame Carolyn McCall, chief executive of ITV, said on a media call following the group’s annual results also published on Tuesday that she had not spoken to Morgan or seen the programme yet, given that she was presenting the figures.
She said Morgan walking off set was not “manufactured”.
Dame Carolyn added that ITV managing director of media and entertainment Kevin Lygo had been in discussion with Morgan in recent days regarding his coverage of the Harry and Meghan interview.
Harry and Meghan, now living in the US, made a number of explosive revelations in their interview, among them an allegation that a member of the family – not the Queen or Duke of Edinburgh – had made a racist comment about their unborn son, Archie.
During the interview, which first aired in the US and was broadcast on ITV on Monday night, Meghan spoke openly about her mental health, telling Winfrey she had had suicidal thoughts and had asked for help and asked to go somewhere to get help, but was told it would not look good by one of the most senior people in the institution.
On Monday morning, Morgan made dismissive comments following the duchess’s mental health revelations, prompting criticism from mental health charity Mind.
Dame Carolyn insisted Good Morning Britain was a “balanced show”, saying: “ITV has many voices and we try and represent many voices every day. It’s not about one opinion.”
On Morgan’s earlier comments saying he did not believe the Duchess of Sussex, Dame Carolyn said: “I completely believe what she (Meghan) said. It’s important everyone does.”
When asked if Morgan would lose his job as a result of his comments, the ITV boss declined to comment and said she would not be drawn further on the issue.
Mind had said in a tweet it was “disappointed and concerned” by Morgan’s comments, adding: “It’s vital that, when people reach out for support or share their experiences of ill mental health, they are treated with dignity, respect and empathy.”
Morgan returned to set after stalking off for a lengthy conversation with Beresford and co-host Susanna Reid.
Sitting back at the desk, he said: “Sorry, much as I’d like to sit here taking abuse from you for hours on end, that’s not going to happen.
“I’m just not prepared to take that. I’ll take it from people outside, I’m not going to take it from you as one of our team.”
Beresford said the situation was personal to him, especially the alleged comment about Archie’s skin colour.
He said: “I have the luxury of knowing you on and off screen and we’ve had conversations, I know where you stand on things… I’ve got a great amount of respect for you, Piers.”
Beresford went on to say “when you’re mixed race what you find in my personal experience… is that when you are a lighter shade of black people gain confidence and feel that they can say things to you that they wouldn’t say to a black person”.
Morgan also addressed his previous comments regarding the duchess’s mental health.
He said: “When we talked about this yesterday, I said as an all-encompassing thing I don’t believe what Meghan Markle is saying generally in this interview, and I still have serious concerns about the veracity of a lot of what she said.
“But let me just state on the record my position about mental illness and on suicide. These are clearly extremely serious things that should be taken extremely seriously, and if someone is feeling that way they should get the treatment and help they need every time.”
Buckingham Palace has not yet responded to the Sussexes’ interview.