In the long-running conflict between the tabloid media and Prince Harry and Duchess Meghan, chalk another win for Harry: The Mail on Sunday in London apologized and issued a correction over a story that reported Harry had “turned his back” on his prized military associations.
It’s the third time this year a media outlet or photo agency apologized or corrected for something published that the Duke and Duchess of Sussex considered inaccurate, defamatory or intrusive.
This latest instance involved the same tabloid newspaper publisher, Associated Newspapers, that Meghan is already suing for copyright infringement and invasion of privacy over publication of a private letter she wrote to her estranged father in 2018.
It also comes after the Sussexes’ London lawyers, Schillings, sent a legal warning and then filed a lawsuit in November against the Mail on Sunday after the tabloid published its Harry-focused story in October. The lawyers labeled the story “false and defamatory,” according to The Guardian, Vanity Fair and Sky News.
The story Harry objected to alleged the duke, 36, a former British Army officer who values his royal connections to the military, failed to maintain contact with the Royal Marines after he stepped away from royal duties in March and moved with Meghan, 39, and baby Archie, 1, to California seeking more freedom, privacy and financial independence.
The couple’s move came after Harry negotiated a settlement with his royal family that would allow him to keep his military links, such as his role as the Captain-General of the Royal Marines.
Now the Mail on Sunday has re-examined its reporting and corrected the record. As per usual, the correction was short and buried on the website and in the paper, in contrast to the original story, which has since disappeared from the paper’s website.
“An article on 25 October 2020 reported that Prince Harry had been accused by a top general of turning his back on the Royal Marines since withdrawing from his military roles in March and that, in an apparent snub to the Armed Forces, he had failed to reply to a letter from Lord Dannatt, a former Chief of the General Staff,” the Mail on Sunday said in its correction.
“We now understand that Harry has been in contact in a private capacity with individuals in the military including in the Royal Marines to offer informal support since March and that, whilst he did not initially receive the letter from Lord Dannatt referred to in the article due to administrative issues, he has since replied on becoming aware of it. We apologise to Prince Harry and have made a donation to (Harry’s) Invictus Games Foundation.”
The Mail on Sunday did not explain how it got all this wrong. But it’s not over yet, as the lawsuit Harry filed still has to be examined by the court in light of the paper’s correction. A court hearing is expected in early January.
The paper’s relatively quick response to Harry’s outrage about an inaccurate story is in sharp contrast to its response to Meghan’s outrage about the publication of her letter to her father, which she contends invaded her privacy and violated copyright law.
Meghan filed her lawsuit in the fall of 2019. She lost some preliminary battles but the suit has survived and is scheduled for a summary judgment hearing on Jan. 19. Assuming it’s not resolved then, a trial is tentatively scheduled for the fall.
Apologies and corrections are nothing new for the Mail on Sunday or its sister paper, The Daily Mail and its online website. In April 2017, the Daily Mail and Mail Online published an apology to first lady Melania Trump and agreed to pay millions in damages to settle two lawsuits for publishing an August 2016 article alleging false “racy” rumors about her years as a single model in New York.
“We apologize to Mrs.Trump for any distress that our publication caused her,” the Mail said, adding that it retracted its false statements that Trump “provided services beyond simply modeling.”
“Mrs. Trump will remain vigilant to protect her good name and reputation from those who make false and defamatory statements about her,” said her American lawyer, Charles Harder, in a statement to USA TODAY at the time.
Meanwhile, the Sussexes, who are building a new life as Hollywood moguls with lucrative Netflix and Spotify deals, can point to other wins against the media.
Earlier this month, Splash News and Picture Agency, a paparazzi agency, agreed not to take pictures of the Sussexes as part of a settlement with the former Meghan Markle, arising from a legal complaint she filed in March over photos of her and Archie taken in a Canadian park on Vancouver Island in January.
A statement by the Sussex lawyers at Schillings called the settlement “a clear signal that unlawful, invasive and intrusive paparazzi behavior will not be tolerated and that the couple takes these matters seriously — just as any family would.”
British Splash has since gone into administration, a type of bankruptcy protection, and a similar claim against sister company Splash US is continuing in the British court system.
In October, Harry and Meghan got another paparazzi agency to confess and apologize for taking surreptitious photos, allegedly by drones, of baby Archie in their Los Angeles backyard. The agency, X17, one of the major celebrity photo agencies, promised to destroy the pictures and to never do it again, and paid some of the couple’s legal fees to boot.
“We apologize to The Duke and Duchess of Sussex and their son for the distress we have caused. We were wrong to offer these photographs and commit to not doing so again,” according to a statement issued by X17 and obtained by USA TODAY.
The settlement resolved the lawsuit the couple filed in Los Angeles soon after arriving in Southern California, and after they became alarmed about drones hovering over the backyard of their rented home above Beverly Hills.
Their Los Angeles lawyer, Michael Kump, issued a statement labeling the backyard photos of Archie with Meghan’s mother, Doria Ragland, as “intrusive and illegal.”
“Today, the agency responsible for those photos – X17 – apologized and agreed to a permanent injunction and reimbursement of a portion of legal fees,” Kump said in the statement obtained by USA TODAY. “This is a successful outcome. All families have a right, protected by law, to feel safe and secure at home.”