Meghan Markle is expected to discuss racism in the U.K. in her sit-down with Oprah Winfrey that airs on Sunday.
In a depressing illustration of the problem, which Prince Harry has previously described as “structural” in Britain, a prominent British journalist and frequent critic of Meghan Markle is under fire after launching an extraordinary and racist attack on her, in which he appeared to suggest the fact that he thinks she is “attractive” meant she could not be a victim of racism.
Andrew Pierce, a senior editor at the Daily Mail who is a regular guest on British TV and radio shows, was hosting a talk radio show Wednesday when a caller suggested that Meghan had never been “fully accepted because of her skin color.”
Pierce, who is white, responded, “Oh God, that one again! Do you look at her… and see a Black woman? Because I don’t. I see a very attractive, a very attractive woman. It’s never occurred to me. I never look at her and think, ‘Gosh she’s Black!’ in the way you look at Oprah Winfrey, you would be in no doubt. When they sit down and do that interview, you will see a Black woman called Oprah Winfrey and you will see a woman who describes [herself] as a woman of color. Her mother is Black, she’s from a mixed-race family of course. But I just don’t think people look at Meghan and think, ‘Oh I hate her, because of her skin color.’ I don’t see it. I don’t buy it.”
In his statement, Pierce utilizes colorism—the concept that because Markle is of a fairer complexion she cannot be a victim of racism. Instead, he compares her to Oprah Winfrey, implying that the media mogul’s darker skin color is not seen as being attractive because her features are overwhelmingly Black.
This has been the case for a number of famous women. Michelle Obama constantly endured negative feedback about her looks before her husband even officially took his place in the White House. By highlighting Markle’s lighter skin, not only is Pierce diminishing her experiences but also perpetuating misunderstandings about racism.
Pierce, a frequent critic of Markle, had earlier in the day been a guest on British TV show Good Morning Britain. The segment in which he appeared was criticized for featuring five white men talking about Meghan.
Pierce attacked Meghan as hypocritical on the show over allegations she bullied staff at Buckingham Palace and also attacked her later in the day on Twitter for wearing jewelry gifted by Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.
The shocking comments by Pierce that appeared to question Meghan’s race based on her appearance echo a revealing article written for Elle magazine in 2015 by Markle in which she said her race made it difficult for her to break through in Hollywood: “I wasn’t Black enough for the Black roles and I wasn’t white enough for the white ones, leaving me somewhere in the middle as the ethnic chameleon who couldn’t book a job.”
She added: “Being biracial paints a blurred line that is equal parts staggering and illuminating.
“While my mixed heritage may have created a grey area surrounding my self-identification, keeping me with a foot on both sides of the fence, I have come to embrace that. To say who I am, to share where I’m from, to voice my pride in being a strong, confident mixed-race woman.”
On Martin Luther King Day 2016, Markle published a moving piece of writing on her now-shuttered blog The Tig that explored the overt and covert racism she and her family have experienced throughout their lives.
Pierce’s remarks have generated outraged commentary on social media.
Nervousness at the palace about what Meghan might reveal in her interview with Oprah intensified today after a new promo clip of Meghan and Harry’s interview with Oprah Winfrey was released. It shows Meghan accuse the British royal family of “perpetuating falsehoods” about her and her husband.
Winfrey asks, “How do you feel about the palace hearing you speak your truth today?”
Markle responds, “I don’t know how they could expect that after all of this time we would still just be silent if there is an active role that The Firm is playing in perpetuating falsehoods about us. And if that comes with risk of losing things, there is a lot that has been lost already.”
Royals often use the term “The Firm” to refer to the monarchy.
The Daily Beast has approached Associated Newspapers, Pierce’s employers, seeking comment.
—Brooke Howard contributed to this report