Fact Check

Was Jeremy Clarkson Fired from 'Who Wants To Be a Millionaire?' Due to His Meghan Markle Comments?

Clarkson wrote that Markle should be “paraded naked” through Britain while people “throw lumps of excrement at her.”

Published March 2, 2023

 (Petr Magera/Wikimedia Commons)
Image Via Petr Magera/Wikimedia Commons
Claim:
Host of “Who Wants to be a Millionaire?” Jeremy Clarkson was fired over his comments about Meghan Markle where he wrote she should be made to “parade naked” through Britain while people “throw lumps of excrement at her.”
What's True

As of this writing in March 2023, Clarkson has only been contracted to appear in one more season of “Who Wants to be a Millionaire?” ITV issued a statement that neither the show nor Clarkson have been “canceled.” Clarkson also denied being sacked from the show.

What's Undetermined

It is not clear if the contract limit is due to Clarkson’s comments on Meghan Markle. While both Clarkson and ITV denied that he was fired, we cannot confirm what may have occurred behind the scenes.

Jeremy Clarkson, a tabloid columnist and the host of "Who Wants To Be a Millionaire?" in the U.K. came under criticism in December 2022 for a column he wrote about Meghan Markle, Duchess of Sussex, which many considered misogynistic. On Mar. 1, 2023, the Daily Mail claimed that he was being axed from his job as host due to these comments, something that both the channel and Clarkson subsequently denied. 

In that article, the Daily Mail reported, "Jeremy Clarkson has been axed as the host of Who Wants To Be A Millionaire, ITV confirmed today, following the presenter's highly controversial Meghan column." The article was soon updated when ITV and Clarkson hit back on the rumors, both denying he was fired.

The drama began in December 2022, when Clarkson wrote a column in The Sun, criticizing Markle after the release of her and Prince Harry's Netflix series in which they heavily criticized the British media and members of the royal family. Clarkson wrote that he "hated [Meghan] on a cellular level." He also wrote:

At night, I'm unable to sleep as I lie there, grinding my teeth and dreaming of the day when she is made to parade naked through the streets of every town in Britain while the crowds chant 'Shame!' and throw lumps of excrement at her. [...]

Everyone who's my age thinks the same way. But what makes me despair is that younger people, especially girls, think she's pretty cool. They think she was a prisoner of Buckingham Palace, forced to talk about nothing but embroidery and kittens.

The backlash was quick, with many calling his column misogynistic. Clarkson apologized for it and the column was taken down. Reports also emerged that he had privately reached out to Prince Harry.

But the controversy raised questions about Clarkson's professional future as well. The column is being investigated by British media regulator Independent Press Standards Organization (IPSO) after they received thousands of complaints from the public. 

On Mar. 1, 2023, Carolyn McCall, the chief executive of ITV, the network that broadcasts "Who Wants to be a Millionaire?" told Variety that the forthcoming season of the game show would be Clarkson's last as host. 

"We have a contract. We're contracted to this [season], so we will do that," she said. "And then we have no future commitments. And we haven't made any statements about that."

This led to a flurry of speculation about the reasons for it being his last, including the possible backlash to his comments on Markle. Soon after McCall's statement was published, Variety posted another update with an ITV statement clarifying further. ITV said they were "contractually committed" to another season of the game show with Clarkson, which was not filmed yet. 

"There are no further commission commitments beyond that currently, as is typical with such shows where we make commissioning decisions on a series-by-series basis. Therefore, for the avoidance of doubt, neither 'Who Wants to Be a Millionaire' nor Jeremy Clarkson have been canceled," they stated. 

Clarkson also denied the reports that he had been fired as well as reports of a possible split with his partner: "So many kind messages about today's reports. But relax. Lisa and I have not split up and I have not been sacked as host of Who Wants To Be A Millionaire":

The end of his time with the game show is being presented as a matter of his contract not being extended past the current season, which is in production at the the time of this writing. However, we do not know what happened behind the scenes, or the role Clarkson's comments on Markle played in the future of his position on the show. 

McCall told Variety that ITV had come out with a response immediately after Clarkson's column was published. "There was no dissent internally. We came out much quicker than anybody else, Amazon included. We just came out said, 'Yes, we do not endorse a single word that he said on that. And there's no place for that on ITV.' So we came out very quickly and just said, you know, that wasn't on ITV. But we don't endorse that in any way. And there's no place for that on ITV," she said. 

In January 2022, Variety reported that Amazon Prime would "likely" no longer be continuing working with Clarkson beyond the currently commissioned seasons of his shows "The Grand Tour" and "Clarkson's Farm." 

Given that the reports of his firing were denied by Clarkson and ITV, but we have no information on the behind-the-scenes circumstances that led to his contract being renewed, we rate this claim as a "Mixture."
 

Sources

"In Light of Jeremy Clarkson's Tweet He Has Asked Us to Take Last Week's Column Down." The Sun, 16 Dec. 2022, https://www.thesun.co.uk/news/20782114/harry-meghan-netflix-series-truth/. Accessed 2 Mar. 2023.

Haigh, Elizabeth. "Jeremy Clarkson DENIES Sacking as Who Wants To Be a Millionaire? Host." Mail Online, 1 Mar. 2023, https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-11808689/Jeremy-Clarkson-DENIES-sacked-Wants-Millionaire-host.html. Accessed 2 Mar. 2023.

"Jeremy Clarkson and Meghan Markle: The Sun Column Gets 6,000 Official Complaints." BBC News, 19 Dec. 2022. www.bbc.com, https://www.bbc.com/news/entertainment-arts-64025074. Accessed 2 Mar. 2023.

"Jeremy Clarkson Not Cancelled as Host of Who Wants To Be A Millionaire?, Says ITV." Sky News, https://news.sky.com/story/jeremy-clarkson-not-cancelled-as-host-of-who-wants-to-be-a-millionaire-itv-12823180. Accessed 2 Mar. 2023.

Ravindran, Manori. "Amazon Likely to Part Ways With Jeremy Clarkson After Final Commissioned Shows Go to Air; 'Grand Tour' Host Sent Email Apology to Harry & Meghan (EXCLUSIVE)." Variety, 16 Jan. 2023, https://variety.com/2023/tv/global/jeremy-clarkson-amazon-grand-tour-canceled-1235490701/. Accessed 2 Mar. 2023.

Ravindran, Manori. "Jeremy Clarkson's Meghan Markle Sun Column Formally Investigated by U.K. Press Watchdog." Variety, 10 Feb. 2023, https://variety.com/2023/tv/global/jeremy-clarkson-meghan-markle-sun-ipso-1235518173/. Accessed 2 Mar. 2023.

Sherwood, Harriet. "Next Who Wants To Be a Millionaire? Series May Be Jeremy Clarkson's Last." The Guardian, 1 Mar. 2023. The Guardian, https://www.theguardian.com/media/2023/mar/01/next-series-of-who-wants-to-be-a-millionaire-may-be-last-hosted-by-jeremy-clarkson. Accessed 2 Mar. 2023.

Yossman, K. J., Manori Ravindran, et al. "Jeremy Clarkson's 'Who Wants to Be a Millionaire' to End With Next Season, 'No Future Commitments' for More Work, Says ITV Boss." Variety, 1 Mar. 2023, https://variety.com/2023/tv/global/jeremy-clarkson-millionaire-canceled-itv-1235538599/. Accessed 2 Mar. 2023.

Nur Nasreen Ibrahim is a reporter with experience working in television, international news coverage, fact checking, and creative writing.