'Free speech matters, freedom of expression matters'
His remarks on Good Morning Britain about Meghan’s interview with Oprah Winfrey sparked more than 50,000 complaints, the most in watchdog Ofcom’s history, but the programme was cleared on Wednesday.
Morgan left the show in March after saying he did not believe claims made by Meghan during the interview.
Speaking outside his London home on Wednesday, he said he would make a decision “quite soon” about where his next job will be.
He added: “I have had loads of offers and they have accelerated in the last 10 hours, as you can imagine, and I will take my free speech campaign around the world and all I require is to have an employer who believes in it as passionately as I do.”
He said the rise in Good Morning Britain’s ratings during his stint on the programme means he is a “valuable commodity”, adding: “I’m considering some very interesting offers right now and I will make a decision quite soon.”
Morgan had questioned whether the ruling meant he could return to Good Morning Britain on ITV, but the PA news agency understands the broadcaster has no plans to invite him back to the programme.
However ITV will continue to work with him on his celebrity interview programme Piers Morgan’s Life Stories, it is understood.
During Meghan’s interview with Winfrey, she said she was ignored when she raised concerns about her mental health and suicidal thoughts, and alleged that racist comments had been made before the birth of her son Archie.
Discussing the interview on Good Morning Britain the following day, Morgan said: “I’m sorry, I don’t believe a word she says. I wouldn’t believe her if she read me a weather report.”
Ofcom said his comments were “potentially harmful and highly offensive” but were thoroughly challenged by his co-host Susanna Reid and ITV News’s royal editor Chris Ship during the programme.
The judgment said: “The code allows for individuals to express strongly held and robustly argued views, including those that are potentially harmful or highly offensive, and for broadcasters to include these in their programming.
“The restriction of such views would, in our view, be an unwarranted and chilling restriction on freedom of expression both of the broadcaster and the audience.”
Morgan hailed the decision as a “landmark ruling”.
“This is Ofcom saying I and any other broadcaster is entitled to say to a public figure, ‘I don’t believe you’,” he added.
“Because if they had gone the other way and said I had to believe Meghan Markle even when she was lying, where does that leave us with government ministers who I was challenging during the pandemic?”
He added: “Good Morning Britain had plenty of people trashing me on those two days. I was quite happy about that, you didn’t get me moaning saying, ‘Oh, that’s so unfair, how dare you not believe me’.
“Doesn’t work both ways, does it?”
Ofcom’s ruling was welcomed by ITV.
The broadcaster said the judgment “sets out clearly that it was the balance and context the programme makers provided which was key in mitigating against the potential for harm and offence which could have been caused by Piers Morgan’s comments”.
It added: “It is because of the programme’s editorial decisions and the opposing views which were forcefully expressed by other presenters and guests that the programme did not breach Ofcom’s rules.”
Morgan’s comments were criticised by mental health charity Mind, and Ofcom has said a significant number of complaints claimed his remarks could dissuade viewers experiencing suicidal thoughts from seeking help, for fear of not being believed or taken seriously.
Asked whether the ruling could have been different if his views had not been challenged by his colleagues, he added: “Maybe, but what I would say is you’re implying that their opinion is somehow more valid than mine.
“Why was Susanna Reid’s opinion that she believed Meghan Markle more valid than my opinion that I didn’t?”
A statement from Ofcom said: “This was a finely balanced decision. Mr Morgan’s comments were potentially harmful and offensive to viewers, and we recognise the strong public reaction to them.
“But we also took full account of freedom of expression. Under our rules, broadcasters can include controversial opinions as part of legitimate debate in the public interest, and the strong challenge to Mr Morgan from other contributors provided important context for viewers.
“Nonetheless, we’ve reminded ITV to take greater care around content discussing mental health and suicide in future. ITV might consider the use of timely warnings or signposting of support services to ensure viewers are properly protected.”
A summary of the Ofcom ruling added: “This programme focused on the interview between Oprah Winfrey and the Duke and Duchess of Sussex.
“It contained statements about suicide and mental health which had the potential to be harmful and highly offensive.
“However, our decision is that overall the programme contained sufficient challenge to provide adequate protection and context to its viewers.
“We also considered that the comments about race in the programme could have been potentially highly offensive, but that the comments were sufficiently contextualised. Therefore, our decision is that the programme did not breach the Ofcom Broadcasting Code.”