Books

Magazine couldn’t verify Meghan Markle’s activism claims: book

A highly anticipated new book about Meghan Markle, Prince Harry and their dispute with the British royal family reports on the behind-the-scenes drama leading to the momentous September 2017 Vanity Fair cover story, which announced to the world that the then little-known American TV actress was dating Britain’s most eligible bachelor.

Some of the drama involved the unsuccessful efforts of Vanity Fair’s fact-checkers to verify some of the future Duchess of Sussex’s claims about her work as an activist and philanthropist, according to an excerpt of the book “Revenge: Meghan, Harry and the War Between the Windsors,” which appeared in the Times UK Friday.

But there was other drama as well, according to the book by Tom Bower, a biographer who is known to be “excoriating of his subjects,” as Newsweek said. With this excerpt, it looks like Meghan won’t be let off easy, as Bower has previously said in interviews that Harry’s wife is someone who “trampled on all those others on the way.”

When it came to Vanity Fair’s big scoop in 2017 — being able to confirm rumors that Harry was dating Meghan, a supporting actor in the TV show “Suits” — she herself spread the news. “We’re a couple. We’re in love,” Meghan proclaimed into writer Sam Kashner’s “recording device.”

But Meghan’s revelation was among several issues with the final story that caused headaches for Harry, the royal family and Meghan herself, according to Bower.

The first major issue is that Meghan was asked by Harry to not mention his name or say a word about the relationship, according to Bower. While Harry and Meghan were secretly engaged, Harry wanted to delay making a public announcement about their relationship until he received formal approval from the queen, on her return from Balmoral Castle in the autumn.

Certainly, being asked to be on the cover of Vanity Fair was a major coup for Meghan, as it’s still considered a rare honor in celebrity world to be so featured in the national magazine. But working with her publicists at Sunshine Sachs to make the story palatable to Harry, Meghan insisted that the story not dwell on her personal life but present her “as a major actor and especially as an activist and philanthropist,” Bower reported.

But as a Vanity Fair editor later told her publicist, Meghan “didn’t get the cover in her own name . . . but because of who she was likely to marry,” according to Bower.

The magazine also faced “one problem” when it came to highlighting Meghan’s activism. Bower wrote: “Vanity Fair’s scrupulous researchers could find no evidence of her global philanthropy and activism.”

During her interview with Kashner, Meghan shared information about herself that has become part of the lore around her. According to Bower, she talked about 11 “my speech to the UN” and her success as an-year-old fighting sexism in advertising for Procter & Gamble products. Meghan said, as a child, she had written to the company’s chairman and to Hillary Clinton, then first lady, to complain about a slogan promoting dishwashing liquid that said “Women all over America are fighting greasy pots and pans.” Meghan said that the wording should be changed to “People all over America.” Also according to the lore, Procter & Gamble bowed to protests by thousands of people and changed the line.

But as Kashner listened to Meghan, he reportedly thought to himself, “It’s hard to know if she’s genuine. She’s an actress,” according to Bower.

While reporting, Kashner also felt “unease” after Meghan told him to call tennis star Serena Williams, whom she said was one of her friends, Bower said. With Kashner, Williams denied she was Meghan’s friend, saying she was only “an acquaintance.”

When the story came out, with the cover line, “Wild About Harry,” Meghan’s “unprecedented brazenness” in talking about her romance with Harry, “took Buckingham Palace by surprise,” Bower wrote. The royal experts also were railed up, wondering if Meghan was using her relationship with Harry to promote herself.

Meghan “hysterically” called her publicists at Sunshine Sachs, saying the palace was “in a fury,” Bower wrote. She wanted to know why the story included her comments about Harry but didn’t focus on her philanthropy and activism. She was worried that the interview would jeopardize her relationship with Harry and was especially angry that the writer omitted her story about her battle with Procter & Gamble, Bower said.

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