Penny Mordaunt’s verdict on Meghan’s Oprah interview: ‘Facts vs feelings’

Penny Mordaunt says lets focus on 'absolutely smashing Labour'

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Penny Mordaunt was the second most popular Tory leadership candidate in the second ballot of Conservative MPs vying for the job of Prime Minister on Thursday. The trade minister won 83 votes compared to the 101 for ex-Chancellor Rishi Sunak, whose resignation from the Cabinet last week helped force Boris Johnson’s exit from Downing Street. Also vying to succeed the Prime Minister is Liz Truss, who came third with 64 votes, while other hopefuls Kemi Badenoch and Tom Tugendhat finished in fourth and fifth place.

With the third ballot due on Monday, Ms Mordaunt remains a relatively obscure public figure compared to the other Tory leadership frontrunners.

One lesser-known detail from her past is her verdict on Meghan Markle in a book she co-wrote last year.

The MP for Portsmouth North published ‘Greater: Britain After the Storm’ with Chris Lewis in 2021, in which the authors set out how Britain’s potential could be unlocked after Brexit.

But as well as airing her political views, Ms Mordaunt also discussed Meghan and Prince Harry’s handling of “facts”.

In a passage exploring “modernity”, the former Defence Secretary appeared to reference the royal couple’s infamous interview with Oprah Winfrey in March last year.

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After speaking about modernity’s effects on technology in Britain, Ms Mordaunt added: “It also accelerated and deepened divisions socially, commercially and culturally.

“Importantly, it tilted the culture towards the internet and news networks competing less on facts and more on entertainment.

“The result was that feelings became as important as facts, as we learned from ‘the stolen election’ narrative in America and the Duke and Duchess of Sussex’s revelations about the Royal Family.”

During their chat with Oprah, Meghan and Harry revealed intimate details about their time in the Royal Family.

They sat down with the US talk show host for an explosive two-hour chat after announcing their plans to step away from their royal roles the previous year.

One of the most bombshell moments in the CBS and ITV special was Meghan’s claim that one of Harry’s family had asked him about the skin colour of their mixed-race son Archie, who was born in 2019.

The Duchess told Oprah that there were “concerns and conversations about how dark his skin might be when he’s born”.

Meghan was pregnant with the couple’s first child when the family member – who she did not name – is said to have made the remark about his skin.

During the interview, Oprah told Meghan to “speak her truth” as she encouraged the royal to share her feelings about life as a royal.

Ms Mordaunt was not the only public figure to refer to the importance of “facts” as well as feelings in relation to the Sussexes’ interview.

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TV host Piers Morgan was sceptical of some of Meghan’s claims, saying last year on ‘Good Morning Britain’, “I don’t believe a word she says”.

Meanwhile, the Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby – who married the Sussexes in 2018 – also disputed one of the Duchess’s claims amid the fallout from the Oprah interview.

He claimed to Italy’s La Repubblica newspaper that he married the Sussexes at the Royal Wedding, contrasting with Meghan’s claim that she and Harry officially tied the knot three days before their nuptials.

However, others came out in support for Meghan and Harry after the interview, hitting back at critics who doubted the couple’s claims.

Tennis player Serena Williams posted a message of support for the Duchess on Twitter, praising her “selfless friend” as “noble”, saying that she knew “first hand” the “sexism and racism” levelled at women and people of colour.

US Vice President Kamala Harris’s niece Meena Harris, who is a lawyer and author, also expressed support for Meghan at the time, writing on Twitter: “Happy Meghan Markle Appreciation Day.”

Although Ms Mordaunt has given her take on the Sussexes, it is unclear if she has ever met the royals.

However, in her previous ministerial roles, the Tory leadership hopeful has rubbed shoulders with other members of ‘The Firm’.

She met Harry’s father Prince Charles in 2017, accompanying the future King to Dominica in the Caribbean after Hurricane Maria, while the pair also met at an event for armed forces charity Combat Stress in 2019.

Ms Mordaunt, a Royal Navy Reservist, also encountered Harry’s brother Prince William in 2019 as the pair attended a Westminster Abbey service recognising 50 years of Britain’s continuous sea deterrent.

‘Greater: Britain After the Storm’ was written by Penny Mordaunt and Chris Lewis and published by Biteback Publishing in 2021. It is available here.

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