What happened to empathy? Meghan Markle’s critics sound like jerks
No one who’s faced mental health struggles should be accused of wallowing or whining. It’s exactly that kind of dismissive rejection that stops people from seeking help,
I’ve never been much of a Royal watcher. From the horrible tragedies to the fantastical weddings, it was all a saga I hadn’t spent much time studying. I’ve been told by more than one person that I must watch “The Crown” to get the gist.
So when I tuned in to Oprah’s interview with Meghan Markle and Prince Harry, I didn’t have any expectations. I was watching because I knew everyone would be talking about it the next day.
Needless to say, the revelations about the inner workings of “the Firm,” or the royal family and its staff, were shocking, horrifying, stomach-churning. Navigating the near-constant scrutiny of the British press seems impossible. And it seems clear that racism is still pervasive in some of the most “enlightened” corners of the planet.
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But what struck me most was listening to Meghan describe her mental health anguish — her hopelessness, her crippling depression, her thoughts of suicide, and her lack of support.
Her experience — even though it’s almost impossible to relate to the American-turned-Princess — was nonetheless all too familiar to me, and to anyone who’s battled those same issues.
Whatever your preconceived notions of Meghan and the royal family — and I had none — it seemed like unquestioning empathy was the only plausible reaction one could have.
The cruel condemnations flooded in. Most famously, Piers Morgan, the now former television host who was once jilted by Markle, waged an all-out assault on the pregnant mother the day after her interview. He called her story “vile, destructive, self-serving nonsense.” He accused her of lying, saying “I don’t believe a word she says. I wouldn’t believe her if she read me a weather report,” to which his incredulous co-host responded, “That’s a pathetic reaction to someone who has expressed those [suicidal] thoughts.”
Meanwhile his own fragility was on full display when he walked off the set of his morning show for being confronted about his obsession with tearing this woman down.
Over in the states, plenty joined Piers in the pile-on. Fox News host Tucker Carlson referred to the couple as “Prince Whatever-His-Name-Is and his angry wife from Los Angeles.” He reduced her account of the ongoing attacks from within the royal family and the press to: “Here’s this royal person, one of the most famous and fawned-over people in the world telling Oprah that she was incredibly wounded because she got into some kind of petty argument about dresses with her sister-in-law at her wedding three years ago.”
Not the racism, the lack of support, the betrayals from her own family and her new one, the isolation and loneliness, the fears for her safety and the safety of her child — no, just a rich woman whining about dresses.
Former Fox News host Megyn Kelly also had no sympathy, tweeting that Meghan and Harry “pretend that no royal has had it worse in the press than they have. Give me a break.” She added, “Have you ever seen such privileged people wallowing in their own (perceived) victimhood like this?”
Before the interview aired, reality television personality Bethenny Frankel pre-butted Markle’s lived experience, tweeting, “Cry me a river...the plight of being a game show host, fairly unknown actress, to suffering in a palace, w[ith] tiaras & 7 figure weddings for TWO WHOLE YEARS to being a household name w[ith] Oprah on speed dial, fetching 7 m[illion] for interviews, hundreds of millions in media deals.”
When did we become so cruel? Are we incapable of empathy? Who meets a young woman’s admission that she’d thought about killing herself with “self-serving nonsense”?
Who calls her a liar, or accuses her of playing a victim? What educated person points to her social status and proclaims it impossible to be both privileged AND severely depressed? What woman with a huge platform decides to use it to tear another woman down instead of lifting her up?
I just don’t get it.
We’ve come so far in de-stigmatizing mental health, and yet it’s still necessary to point out that depression and mental illness, suicidal thoughts, crippling anxiety, isolation and loneliness don’t care about your income, race, class, gender or social status. They don’t care if you seemingly “have it all.” No one should be told that they’re too “privileged” to be sad.
And no one who’s faced mental health struggles should be accused of wallowing or whining. It’s exactly that kind of dismissive rejection that stops people from seeking help, especially in racial minority populations.
But even if you aren’t aware of how destructive those kinds of comments can be, why make them? What is the actual point of belittling Meghan Markle’s battles with depression and suicide? Exactly what “position” are you serving, other than to announce you’re an uncaring ass?
Markle’s interview was indeed revealing, especially to someone like me who didn’t know much about royal life. But unfortunately, it’s actually her unsympathetic detractors who revealed the most...about themselves.
S.E. Cupp is the host of “S.E. Cupp Unfiltered” on CNN.
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