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Outrage in Britain after tabloid columnist imagined Meghan naked and shamed

Co-host Jeremy Clarkson attends Amazon Studio's “The Grand Tour” season two premiere screening and party at Duggal Greenhouse on Dec. 7, 2017, in New York. (Evan Agostini/Invision/AP)
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LONDON — The British TV personality Jeremy Clarkson published his Sunday column in the Sun tabloid, imagining Meghan, Duchess of Sussex, stripped naked and publicly humiliated before jeering crowds of Britons.

The reaction was intense.

Many people were appalled, and very active on social media, calling out both Clarkson and Rupert Murdoch, the media mogul who owns the paper. For a couple of days, the word “vile” was trending alongside Clarkson’s name in Britain.

The Sun withdrew the column, which appears unprecedented. But the controversy continues. Parliament is now involved.

The wife of King Charles III, Camilla, the queen consort, has also been vacuumed into the controversy, as she hosted Clarkson at a palace luncheon a few days before the column ran (alongside Piers Morgan, another of Meghan’s arch-antagonists).

The Clarkson article read, “At night, I'm unable to sleep as I lie there, grinding my teeth and dreaming of the day when she [Meghan] is made to parade naked through the streets of every town in Britain while the crowds chant 'Shame!' and throw lumps of excrement at her,” adding “everyone who's my age thinks the same way.”

Clarkson said he hated Meghan — a biracial American actress, mother of two, podcaster, activist and wife to Harry — “on a cellular level.”

He compared Meghan to Nicola Sturgeon, the first minister of Scotland, who is seeking independence from England, and Rose West, a serial killer who, along with her husband, murdered 12 girls over a 20-year spree.

The column ran in one of the same tabloids accused of inciting hate and racism against the royal couple in the six-part Netflix documentary series “Harry & Meghan,” which has received mixed reviews here. Some sympathized with the Netflix narrative of an emotionally frozen, zero-sum royal family whose press teams assaulted each other behind the scenes; many others saw the couple as privileged whiners trading off their titles.

Netflix’s ‘Harry & Meghan’ documentary directs ire toward palace

Clarkson’s critics suggested the jowly 62-year-old host of the “Top Gear” motoring TV series had a problem with women, and they found his nocturnal fantasies creepy, misogynistic and violent.

British Olympic medalist Kate Richardson-Walsh observed that Meghan “living rent free in Jeremy Clarkson’s head is going to have me sleeping easy tonight. The crumbling old white patriarchy is vile. Burn it all down.”

Emily Clarkson, the columnist’s daughter and an author, wrote on Instagram that she “stands against everything” her father wrote and called it a form of “online hatred.”

On Monday, Clarkson tweeted a tepid apology, writing, “Oh dear. I’ve rather put my foot in it. In a column I wrote about Meghan, I made a clumsy reference to a scene in Game of Thrones and this has gone down badly with a great many people. I’m horrified to have caused so much hurt and I shall be more careful in future.”

The “Game of Thrones” scene that Clarkson alluded to was one of the most harrowing in the series, showing the character Cersei Lannister with a shaved head and stripped naked as an atonement for her sins, forced to walk through the streets as angry crowds curse her and pelt her with trash.

Clarkson is no B-lister in Britain, as he might be in America, but a major celebrity — a household name and a popular game-show host who appears on political chats on BBC and ITV. His Twitter account has almost 8 million followers.

The blowback is big enough that more than 60 lawmakers in Parliament, from all parties, wrote a letter to the Sun’s editor, Victoria Newton, demanding an apology from the paper and that action be taken against Clarkson for creating “an unacceptable climate of hatred and violence.”

The lawmakers noted that Meghan “has faced multiple credible threats to her life, requiring the intervention of the Metropolitan Police” and that “hateful” articles like Clarkson’s “do not exist in a vacuum.”

Defending Clarkson was the former ITV “Good Morning Britain” broadcaster Piers Morgan, who left his show over his own Meghan blowout, when an on-air colleague accused him of obsessively trashing the duchess.

On Tuesday, Morgan tweeted, “Imagine if all those screaming with rage about Jeremy Clarkson felt the same protective anger towards those who’ve branded our Royal Family callous lying racist bullies – without producing any actual evidence for these cruel allegations?”

A columnist for the Daily Telegraph, Ross Clark, said Clarkson was wrong to apologize, but also wrong to imagine the duchess paraded naked through his streets, as it “fuels the couple’s grievance machine, which allows them to say: see what we mean about racist Britain hating Meghan?”