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Tuesday, September 22, 2020

Why Meghan Markle should think twice about that libel lawsuit

If privacy is truly what Meghan Markle craves, she should take one look at what happened to Johnny Depp last week and drop her libel lawsuit against a British tabloid immediately.

At issue for Markle: In her initial filing against the Mail on Sunday and its owner, Associated Newspapers, in October 2019, she claimed the paper violated her privacy by publishing a letter she wrote to her father — a letter she mailed to him, and which he gave, or sold, to the Mail. Markle also maintains that the paper edited her letter to make her seem like a villain.

“Please allow us to live our lives in peace,” it read in part. “Please stop lying, please stop creating so much pain, please stop exploiting my relationship with my husband … if you take a moment to pause I think you’ll see that being able to live with a clear conscience is more valuable than any payment in the world.”

Not a terribly toothy letter, that. In fact, in some ways — in my opinion only, don’t sue, Meghan — it reads like a document that the writer suspects will be leaked to the media. Take this part, which seems almost alibi-like in its exposition:

“So the week of the wedding to hear about you having a heart attack through a tabloid was horrifying. I called and texted … I begged you to accept help — we sent someone to your home … and instead of speaking to me to accept this or any help, you stopped answering your phone and chose to only speak to tabloids.”

There was also a helpful refutation of her father’s claims that his daughter had changed her phone number, and he didn’t have her new one — a piece of minutiae surely known only to the most die-hard royal watchers.

“My phone number has remained the same,” she wrote.

These details are salient: Libel lawsuits in the UK, as Depp is learning, are far more brutal than those in the US. Depp filed suit over just one adjective, “wife-beater.”

Johnny Depp arrives at court in London.
Johnny Depp arrives at court in London.Neil Hall/EPA

But instead of a trial narrowly focused on that word, the world has been made privy to the most grisly, humiliating details of his ill-fated marriage to ex-wife Amber Heard — evidence submitted in everything from Depp’s drug binges at breakfast to Heard, or one of her friends, pooping in the marital bed.

And just like that, the Coolest Guy in the World has become, perhaps irrevocably, a sad caricature of an aged-out, irrelevant movie star.

Yet here’s Markle doubling down last week, filing an application to prevent the Mail on Sunday — as part of their defense — from naming five friends who spoke to People magazine for a glowing 2019 cover story about Markle.

“Meghan Markle’s Best Friends Break Their Silence: We Want to Speak the Truth,” went the coverline.

The notion that these friends spoke without direct authorization from the Duchess of Sussex is laughable. People magazine itself made the slant of this write-around profile clear.

“After maintaining their silence for nearly two years, five women who form an essential part of Meghan’s inner circle have spoken with People to ‘stand up against the global bullying we are seeing and speak the truth about our friend,’” says a longtime friend and former co-star.

This undated photo released by London's High Court shows injuries said to have been sustained during an incident with Johnny Depp.
This undated photo released by London’s High Court shows injuries said to have been sustained during an incident with Johnny Depp.Court Photo via AP

“Selfless” and “the best listener” is how her friends depicted Markle here.

“If I’m thrown some kind of curveball, I always think, ‘I gotta talk to Meg,’” another colleague told People. “We talk daily. And the first thing out of her mouth is, ‘How are the kids? How are you?’ I’m not even allowed to ask about her until she finds out about me.’”

And the issue here for Markle is … ?

Ever since she wed Prince Harry in 2018 — a wedding watched by 1.9 billion people, attended by largely glowing media coverage about the new, divorced, biracial American who was a breath of fresh air — we have been unrelentingly subjected to Markle’s victim narrative.

She has complained about the British tabloids, about the Royal Family, about no one asking her “if I’m okay” during a trip to Africa where she met with poor and starving children living under the threat of violence.

Poor Harry and Meghan. The Queen wouldn’t let them brand SussexRoyal, so now they can’t peddle various and sundry tchotchkes. The pandemic has prevented them from giving paid speeches, as Harry did in February to JP Morgan Chase on life without his mother.

Princess Diana’s premature, tragic and preventable death, by the way, was Harry and Meghan’s stated reason for stepping down as senior royals and staying out of the spotlight.

Yet here they are, monetizing Harry’s most painful and once-private loss. And in August comes another Sussex-approved gambit, the forthcoming book “Finding Freedom: Harry and Meghan and the Making of a Modern Royal Family.”

Such a great title. Two famous, privileged, wealthy global celebrities fleeing a castle in the night, just the clothes on their backs, looking for independence while taking refuge in a $14 million mansion in Canada — since upgraded to Tyler Perry’s $18 million LA mansion, where they reportedly pay rent — still bankrolled by Harry’s father Prince Charles.

Does Markle think this book won’t come up at a libel trial? Does she think there will be no mention of the book’s co-author, Omid Scobie, who told the press in May that he’d been working on it, with both Harry and Meghan, since 2018, the year they married?

Johnny Depp and Amber Heard
Johnny Depp and Amber HeardKevork Djansezian/Reuters

We keep hearing how media-savvy Meghan is, that her time in Hollywood made her a master at manipulating the press. But this decision to sue for libel makes no sense. Perhaps she’s confused her time on a basic-cable legal drama with actual legal expertise.

Meghan can’t have it both ways. She can’t sue for intrusion of privacy while doing everything she can to stay in the spotlight. And if she really wanted to retreat, no better time — we’re all under lockdown, preoccupied with our own pressing real-world issues.

Yet Markle is willing to do battle in court over such libelous claims that she didn’t invite her mother, Doria, to her star-studded baby shower in New York.

Johnny Depp, who has lived his entire adult life in the spotlight, has seen the smallest aperture widen out into a forensic examination of his alleged addictions, demons, and failings — accompanied by photos of him allegedly passed out, bloody and burned, insults scrawled in his own blood. His public image, carefully cultivated over decades, has been blown to bits in just four days of testimony.

Meghan Markle, ostensible spin doctor extraordinaire, should take heed.

Read More at NYPost

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