Piers Morgan has sensationally quit Good Morning Britain hours after the launch of a social media campaign which saw more than 40,000 complaints made to Ofcom.
The tough-talking morning show host, who has helped rocket the ITV show to its highest ever viewing figures, attracted a backlash on Twitter after casting doubt over Meghan Markle’s mental health claims in her explosive interview with Oprah Winfrey.
Today the UK’s television regulator announced it would launch an investigation following a flurry of complaints, driven by a social media campaign against the broadcaster – with many linking to the Ofcom official complaints page.
It came after the 55-year-old host today shocked viewers by walking off camera during a heated on-air row with weatherman Alex Beresford.
The broadcaster stormed out of the studio saying ‘I’m done with this’ after being challenged on his position of the Duke and Duchess by his co-star.
Afterwards ITV CEO Carolyn McCall – who formerly worked for the left-wing Guardian newspaper – said that the broadcaster’s media and entertainment MD Kevin Lygo was speaking to Mr Morgan.
And this evening it was announced that Mr Morgan had quit the hugely popular ITV show – which he co-hosted with Susanna Reid.
An ITV spokesman told MailOnline: ‘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.’
It is understood Mr Morgan had been asked to apologise for his remarks yesterday which had been criticised by mental health campaigners but had declined.
It brings to an end his six-year long association with the breakfast show, which he originally joined as a guest host in 2015, during which time he has made it must-see TV with a strong of exclusives and his strident opinions.
Ironically it came the day after GMB recorded its highest ever viewing figures in the wake of Megan Markle’s blockbuster Oprah Winfrey interview.
And on the day that he had followed up with an agenda-setting interview with her father Thomas in which Mr Markle had taken aim at ‘snotty’ Harry, defended the British people and Royals against her claims of racism and revealed that he felt she had betrayed him, not the other way around.
Earlier Morgan also addressed his previous comments regarding the Duchess’s mental health.
Yesterday, he was criticised by the charity, Mind, after saying he ‘didn’t believe a word she said’. I wouldn’t believe it if she read me a weather report,’ he added.
Today he addressed these remarks and 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 for the record on my position on mental illness and on suicide.
‘On mental illness and suicide these are clearly extremely serious things and should be taken extremely seriously and if someone is feeling that way they should get the treatment and the help they need every time. Every time.
‘And if they belong to an institution like the Royal family and they go and seek that help they should absolutely be given it.
‘It’s not for me to question if she felt suicidal, I am not in her mind and that is for her to say.
‘My real concern was a disbelief frankly and I’m prepared to be proven wrong on this and if I’m wrong it is a scandal, that she went to a senior member of the Royal household and told them she was suicidal and was told she could not have any help because it would be a bad look for the family.
‘If that is true a) that person should be fired and b) The Royal family have serious questions that need to be answered.’
But it was not enough to stop a wildfire social media campaign against him that resulted in 41,000 complaints to TV watchdog Ofcom by this evening who announced they had launched a probe under their ‘harms’ code.
An avalanche of tweets which criticised the host and supporting Meghan – some sharing direct links to the Ofcom complaints page. Among those launching criticism at Morgan were Labour MP Dawn Butler, who copied in the Twitter page of ITV.
In her tweet, which shared a comment from Mind criticising Morgan’s remarks, she asked: ‘@ITV what have you decided to do?’
Another Twitter user said: ‘It took me about seven minutes to complain to fill in the Ofcom online form to complain about Piers Morgan’s disgusting behaviour on mental health and race issues. It’s not much, but if enough people complain they have to do something!’
One Twitter user – who said: ‘I am determined to get Piers off GMB Lolz. Which petitions do I need to sign?’ – received a response with a link to the Ofcom complaints page.
Their decision to act was in stark contrast to what happened with 24,500 people complained about dance troop Diversity’s BLM-inspired routine on Britain’s Got Talent last year when the watchdog refused a probe and said: ‘We carefully considered a large number of complaints about this artistic routine, an area where freedom of expression is particularly important.
‘Diversity’s performance referred to challenging and potentially controversial subjects, and in our view, its central message was a call for social cohesion and unity.
‘Any depictions of violence by the performers were highly stylised and symbolic of recent global events, and there was no explicit reference to any particular political organisation – but rather a message that the lives of black people matter.’
Mr Morgan is also Editor at large for MailOnline and writes a twice weekly column for the website. A spokesman for MailOnline said: ‘This is a very sad day for British free speech and one ITV will come to regret very quickly. We stand by Piers 120%.’
Earlier Alex Beresford added fuel to his on-going feud with the presenter today as he took aim at those who ‘had the privilege to sit on the fence’ and said no one should ‘pick apart claims of racism.’
He was today publicly backed by GMB’s political producer Anne Alexander, who tweeted: ‘I know the storming off is dramatic etc, but don’t let Alex’s calm and thoughtful words about Harry and Meghan be lost in the drama.And this is a guy who is not a regular presenter taking on one of the most formidable journalists in the country.’
She later posted: ‘Well, my WhatsApp is on fire and I’ve not even had breakfast yet. And @alexberesfordTV, I have two proposals of marriage to pass on to you.’
Mr Morgan had stormed off the Good Morning Britain set live on air this morning after the show’s weatherman accused him of unfairly ‘trashing’ Meghan Markle.
Morgan and Beresford had been discussing the Sussexes’ bombshell interview with Oprah, where the couple accused the Royal Family of racism.
After publicly disagreeing on Twitter in the days leading up to the interview, the pair continued to clash in the studio this morning, with Beresford branding his colleague ‘diabolical’.
Tensions were evidently rising as Beresford tried to interject while Morgan was discussing the media’s role in promoting the monarchy.
Morgan said, ‘Well do you mind waiting?’ and Beresford replied ‘Actually I don’t, carry on’ before Morgan let him speak, saying, ‘Up to you mate, I was just going to… fine.’
Beresford then joined the debate around the couple’s press coverage, adding: ‘There was bad press around the engagement, before the engagement and everything that has followed since has been incredibly damaging, quite clearly to Meghan’s mental health and also to Harry.’
The weatherman, 40, then suggested Morgan, who has previously recalled going to the pub with Meghan ahead of her date with Prince Harry, was upset at being ‘cut off’ by the duchess.
He added: ‘She’s entitled to cut you off. Has she said anything about you since she cut you off? I don’t think she has. But you continue to trash her’ – at which point Morgan marched off set.
Susanna Reid was forced to send ITV’s breakfast programme to an early advertisement break after the row between her co-host and Beresford boiled over.
The GMB host returned to the set after the ad break, and said he and Beresford needed to engage ‘in a civilised manner given that we work at the same show on the same team’.
He added: ‘You launching into a pretty personally derogatory monologue on one of your colleagues probably isn’t one of the best ways to go about it.’
Morgan also went on to address criticism he received yesterday after seemingly casting doubt on Meghan’s claims to have felt suicidal. While doubling down on his ‘serious concerns about the veracity’ of her interview, he stressed mental health ‘should be taken extremely seriously’.
After the show ended Beresford tweeted what appeared a thinly-veiled dig: ‘I wish I had the privilege to sit on the fence.
‘In order for me to do that I would have to strip myself of my identity and that’s not something I can do. It’s not any of our places to pick apart claims of racism in order to make us to feel more comfortable.’
The fallout of Meghan and Harry’s sit-down with Oprah, that aired to British viewers on ITV last night, continues to dominate the news agenda this morning.
GMB aired a clip of the duke taking aim at the press, which kicked off a debate on the show.
Morgan argued the press performs a dual role of scrutinising the royals but also promoting their activities.
Beresford countered that most of the coverage of the Sussexes had been negative, before turning to address Morgan directly.
‘I understand that you don’t like Meghan Markle, you’ve made it so clear a number of times on this programme, a number of times,’ he said.
‘I understand you have a personal relationship with Meghan Markle, or had one, and she cut you off. She’s entitled to cut you off.
‘Has she said anything about you since she cut you off? I don’t think she has. But yet you continue to trash her’.
At this point Morgan, 55, stood up and said: ‘Ok, I’m done with this. Sorry. You can trash me mate but not on my own show. See you later’.
As the GMB host marched off, Beresford persisted: ‘You know what that’s diabolical behaviour. That’s pathetic.
His colleagues watched in stunned silence as he continued, calling Morgan’s comments in yesterday’s show ‘incredibly hard to watch’.
‘I’m sorry but Piers just spouts off on a regular basis and we have to sit there and listen,’ he said.
Reid eventually interjected and took the show to an early ad break while tensions cooled.
On Twitter Morgan fended off suggestions he was a ‘snowflake’ – something he rails against regularly on GMB.
Guido Fawkes, the political blog, tweeted: ‘What a snowflake @piersmorgan turns out to be. If you dish it out, you’ve got to take it.’
Morgan replied: ‘Agreed. I was annoyed, went for a little cool-down, and came back to finish the discussion.’
He added that it was a ‘strong debate’ and so ‘worth a bit of GMB family tension’, but justifying his exit, said: ‘I just prefer not to sit there listening to colleagues call me diabolical.’
After the break, Morgan returned and said: ‘What we need to do Alex is talk to each other in a civilised manner given we work on the same show on the same team.
‘You launching into a pretty personally derogatory monologue on one of your colleagues probably isn’t one of the best ways to go about it.
‘As much as I’d like to sit here taking abuse from you, that’s not going to happen.’
Beresford shot back: ‘I’m not trying to come on this show and take you down. Just because we’re on the same side we have to have the same view.
‘This whole situation is very personal for me and I’m by no way, shape or form accusing you of being racist. I have the luxury of knowing you on and off screen and we’ve had conversations, I know where you stand on this and I have a great amount of respect for you, Piers.’
Morgan replied: ‘I wanted you on the show today because you sent me a really thoughtful and nuanced message about all this and I thought we could have a thoughtful nuanced conversation’.
Beresford then admitted: ‘I’m tired of finding a different way to explain not to you, but to so many people on why what has been said is so wrong.
He went on: ‘I’ve walked into institutions as the only person of colour and experienced covert and overt racism on so many occasions and why the Meghan interview really resonates with me is because an ex-work colleague – not on this show – asked me if I was worried about the shade of cocoa that my son was going to come out.
‘So I fully understand the hurt that is behind all of that.’
Morgan insisted he has not got a ‘racist bone’ in his body, saying he would ‘love’ if one of his children brought home someone from a different race.
Beresford said: ‘I don’t feel that you are a racist… but that’s why I just feel the stance you were taking on it yesterday was so strong I just felt it was slightly clouded because you’ve had an experience with her.’
The pair had rowed earlier in the week about the Oprah interview. Beresford tweeted: ‘You ever stop and think maybe you should give this woman carrying a baby a break?’
Morgan then replied: ‘You mean like she’s giving a 94yr-old woman a break as her husband lies in hospital?’ – a reference to the Queen and her husband Prince Philip.
The pair have locked horns before on air, including a similar debate about the Sussexes in January last year.