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File photo of Jeremy Clarkson. PA

Jeremy Clarkson's Meghan Markle column becomes most complained-about article to UK watchdog

Ipso said the piece, which was removed from The Sun’s website yesterday, had received more than 20,800 complaints as of 5pm today.

JEREMY CLARKSON’S SUN newspaper column, in which he said he “hated” the Duchess of Sussex, has become the most complained-about article to the UK’s press watchdog.

The Independent Press Standards Organisation (Ipso) said the piece, which was removed from The Sun’s website yesterday at Clarkson’s request, had received more than 17,500 complaints as of 9am this morning – rising to 20,800 by 5pm.

The reaction surpassed the total number of complaints the UK media regulator received in 2021 – 14,355.

The previous most complained-about article was published in the Scottish Sun in August 2020, about the Stonehaven train derailment, which received more than 16,860 complaints.

In the piece published on Friday, Clarkson wrote that he had dreamed of Markle being paraded through British towns and publicly shamed, adding that “everyone who’s my age thinks the same way”.

The article attracted criticism from high-profile figures, politicians, and his own daughter, Emily Clarkson.

A spokesman for the regulator said: “Ipso has received more than 20,800 complaints about an opinion piece on the Duchess and Duke of Sussex written by Jeremy Clarkson and published by The Sun on Friday 16 December, 2022.

“We will follow our usual processes to examine the complaints we have received. This will take longer than usual because of the volume of complaints.”

The spokesman added that the number of complaints would be subject to change.

Ipso is a voluntary press-funded body not backed by the UK Government, which upholds journalistic standards.

It was launched in 2014 in the wake of the Leveson Inquiry, which concluded that the Press Complaints Commission (PCC) was not working.

Not all UK publishers are members of Ipso.

The most number of complaints received by the PCC, Ipso’s forerunner, was 25,000 – following a 2009 comment piece in The Daily Mail by Jan Moir about the death of Boyzone singer Stephen Gately.

However the PCC later ruled the piece had not been in breach of the Editorial Code, and the complaints were not upheld.

Earlier today, a group of 60 British MPs wrote to the editor of The Sun, Victoria Newton, to condemn the article “in the strongest terms”.

The cross-party group, led by Conservative MP Caroline Nokes, said the “hateful” article had contributed to an “unacceptable climate of hatred and violence”, and demanded that the publication take action against Clarkson.

“We are horrified at the recent article by Jeremy Clarkson in your publication. As parliamentarians of every persuasion, we condemn in the strongest terms the violent misogynistic language against the Duchess of Sussex, Meghan Markle,” the letter read.

“This sort of language has no place in our country, and it is unacceptable that it was allowed to be published in a mainstream newspaper. Ms Markle has faced multiple credible threats to her life, requiring the intervention of the Metropolitan Police.

“Hateful articles like the one written by Clarkson do not exist in a vacuum, and directly contribute to this unacceptable climate of hatred and violence.”

The letter continued: “We are deeply concerned about the role modelling being promoted to young men and boys, that they can verbally attack women without a consequence or that it is OK to use violent language to address a woman that you might disagree with.

“You will no doubt know how violence against women and girls has surged across Britain in recent years. We must do better. Enough is enough. We cannot allow this type of behaviour to go unchecked any longer.

“We welcome The Sun’s retraction of the article, we now demand action is taken against Mr Clarkson and an unreserved apology is issued to Ms Markle immediately.

“We further demand definitive action is taken to ensure no article like this is ever published again.”

The letter was signed by 64 MPs.

PA has approached The Sun for comment.

SNP MP John Nicolson also wrote to the ITV chief executive following the “grotesque comments”.

In his own letter, also shared on Twitter, Mr Nicolson said Clarkson’s article had “crossed the line” and demanded he be dropped by the broadcaster.

As well as being the host of Amazon’s The Grand Tour, alongside Richard Hammond and James May, Clarkson also presents Who Wants To Be A Millionaire? on ITV.

“Following grotesque comments made about the First Minister and the Duchess of Sussex, I do not believe Jeremy Clarkson should be allowed back on our screens. I’ve written to the chief executive of @ITV,” Nicolson wrote.

Writing on Twitter, Clarkson said he was “horrified to have caused so much hurt” following the backlash and that he would “be more careful in future”.

It follows the recent broadcast of Harry and Meghan’s explosive six-part Netflix documentary, in which the couple made allegations of mistreatment by the royal family.

The first three episodes saw Meghan accuse the British media of wanting to “destroy” her and claim “salacious” stories were “planted” in the press.

The duchess also took the publisher of The Mail on Sunday – Associated Newspapers Limited (ANL) – to court, after it published parts of a personal letter to her father, Thomas Markle, winning the case in 2021.

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