Piers Morgan has left ITV’s Good Morning Britain following a row over comments he made about the Duchess of Sussex.
It brings the controversial host’s time on the show to an end after six years.
ITV announced the decision after Ofcom said it was investigating his comments after receiving 41,000 complaints.
On Monday’s show, Morgan said he “didn’t believe a word” the duchess had told Oprah Winfrey about her mental health in an interview.
An ITV spokesperson said: “Following discussions with ITV, Piers Morgan has decided now is the time to leave Good Morning Britain. ITV has accepted this decision and has nothing further to add.”
The channel confirmed to the BBC that his departure from the breakfast news show will take effect immediately but declined to say who would be replacing him on Wednesday.
Morgan’s departure followed an on-air clash with weather presenter Alex Beresford, who criticised his colleague on Tuesday for “continuing to trash” the duchess, prompting Morgan to walk off set. He returned within 10 minutes.
Also on Tuesday, ITV chief executive Dame Carolyn McCall said she “completely believed what [the duchess] says”, adding that ITV is “totally committed to” mental health.
Mental health charity Mind, which is a partner with ITV on its Britain Get Talking campaign, also criticised Morgan, saying it was “disappointed” by the presenter’s comments.
Morgan has not commented on his departure beyond posting a gif on Twitter of a ticking clock.
What did Piers Morgan say?
On Monday’s programme, Morgan picked up on the duchess’s claim that her request to senior Buckingham Palace officials for help was rejected, after she told Winfrey she had had suicidal thoughts.
“Who did you go to?” he said. “What did they say to you? I’m sorry, I don’t believe a word she said, Meghan Markle. I wouldn’t believe it if she read me a weather report.
“The fact that she’s fired up this onslaught against our Royal Family I think is contemptible.”
He also referred to the duchess as the “Pinocchio Princess” in a tweet later that morning.
Following an outcry, he said on Tuesday’s episode that “I still have serious concerns about the veracity of a lot of what” Meghan said, but that it was “not for me to question if she felt suicidal”.
He added: “My real concern was a disbelief frankly… that she went to a senior member of the Royal household and told them she was suicidal and was told she could not have any help because it would be a bad look for the family.”
What was the backlash?
A total of 41,015 complaints were made to media watchdog Ofcom by 14:00 GMT on Tuesday.
That is the second highest number of complaints in Ofcom’s 17-year history, behind the 44,500 submitted over several days about the racism row involving Jade Goody and Shilpa Shetty on Celebrity Big Brother in 2007.
“We have launched an investigation into Monday’s episode of Good Morning Britain under our harm and offence rules,” an spokesperson for the regulator said.
Meanwhile, on Monday evening Mind tweeted: “We were disappointed and concerned to see Piers Morgan’s comments on not believing Meghan’s experiences about suicidal thoughts today.
“It’s vital that when people reach out for support or share their experiences of ill mental health that they are treated with dignity, respect and empathy. We are in conversations with ITV about this at the moment.”
There is a culture war going on, and Piers Morgan’s job on Good Morning Britain has fallen victim to it.
That’s different from saying Morgan himself is a victim of it; in some ways he has been a beneficiary.
But when the public position of a star presenter and a broadcaster’s CEO are in sharp contrast, about such a sensitive subject, at a time of such heightened tensions, something has to give.
Tonight, it did.
This morning Carolyn McCall made it very clear that she believed Meghan Markle’s central claim about her mental health. She went further: ITV takes mental health very seriously.
It follows that the company must have expected Morgan to recant publicly, or apologise. He is unlikely to have been willing to do that. Therefore this was the moment to leave GMB.
How have people reacted to his departure?
Morgan has always divided opinion – and some people on social media were glad to see the back of him, while others offered their support.
Even if the only thing the Oprah interview accomplishes is Piers Morgan quitting his show, that will still be a win.
— Katy Stoll (@katystoll) March 9, 2021
It should not have taken Piers Morgan essentially calling a woman a liar for discussing her suicidal thoughts for ITV to have sacked him. Why wasn’t the years of attacking Markle enough? Or the transphobia? Or the sexism? Or, you know, his years of professional ineptitude?
— Kayleigh Donaldson (@Ceilidhann) March 9, 2021
Whether it’s a football manager, a television presenter or any profession for that matter, it’s always sad when someone loses their job. @piersmorgan is excellent at what he does and I’m sure he’ll be back on the telly soon.
— Gary Lineker 💙 (@GaryLineker) March 9, 2021
. @piersmorgan I am with you. I stand by you. People forget that you’re paid for your opinion and that you’re just speaking your truth.
— Sharon Osbourne (@MrsSOsbourne) March 9, 2021
Fellow ITV host Lorraine Kelly told BBC’s The One Show: “It’s certainly going to be quieter. We all wish him well. We all wish him absolutely all the best. Like I say, it will be calmer.”
Morgan’s former BBC Breakfast rival Dan Walker, meanwhile, posted a tongue-in-cheek offer to his adversary.
Sorry to hear the news about your departure from GMB @piersmorgan
If you’d like to come on the UK’s number 1 breakfast show to talk about it… we could make some space for you in the morning 👍🏻
— Dan Walker (@mrdanwalker) March 9, 2021
Actress Jameela Jamil reacted by revealing that Morgan’s “relentless campaign of lies and hatred against me” had led her to contemplate suicide.
TV critic Scott Bryant told BBC Radio 5 Live that the announcement had come as “a big shock”.
“The big question people are asking is, did he decide to willingly leave the programme or was he pushed out of it?” he said.
Media commentator Alex DeGroote told 5 Live: “Has he walked? Has be been pushed? Who knows. But it’s a stunning development.”
His departure “will be a blow for Good Morning Britain because he is very much the public face of that show”, he said, adding: “I suspect ITV have decided that their public brand and their public responsibility comes ahead of Piers Morgan.
“They have to be conscious of the fallout in terms of the damage to their own brand, and ultimately nobody is bigger than the station itself.”
Morgan is not likely to struggle to find a new outlet, he said. “He won’t be short of offers, and he has a big social following, and those people will follow him to a new platform, so this is definitely not the last of Piers Morgan.”
Piers Morgan’s rise to fame
Born in 1965 in an East Sussex village, Piers Stefan Pughe-Morgan was youngest of four children and the son of a meat distribution executive.
After leaving school he studied journalism – working his way up through local papers before moving The Sun, where he was given his own showbiz column, Bizarre, by then-editor Kelvin MacKenzie.
From there his career in media progressed rapidly. Morgan was just 28 when he became editor of the News of the World in January 1994.
By November of the following year he’d joined The Mirror to become the youngest ever editor of a national daily newspaper.
The paper’s reputation grew under his stewardship but the success came to an abrupt end, when in 2004, he was sacked over approving the frontpage publication of falsified photographs allegedly showing British soldiers humiliating Iraqi prisoners of war.
Morgan later told The Times the dismissal “liberated” him.
A move into TV then followed.
His ITV show Life Stories saw him interview prominent celebrity figures, while he also took up a judging role on Britain’s Got Talent before landing a leading role on US broadcaster CNN in 2010.
But the show was axed in March 2014 due to falling ratings, as Morgan’s campaigning and combative stance toward the US gun lobby cemented his controversialist streak.
However, as with his departure from The Mirror, he was not down for long. In 2015 he joined the presenting team on ITV’s Good Morning Britain – bringing his street-fighting social media presence to breakfast TV every morning alongside Susanna Reid.
The pair built up a strong partnership, with Morgan acting as the pantomime villain, outspoken and perfectly suited to the Twitter age.