Diane Abbott misquotes statement from Michelle Donelan

13 January 2023
What was claimed

Culture secretary Michelle Donelan said Jeremy Clarkson was right to say Meghan Markle should be stripped naked and pelted with excrement.

Our verdict

This is not true. Ms Donelan was defending Mr Clarkson’s right to freedom of speech, not agreeing with what he said.

“Tory minister says Jeremy Clarkson was right to say Meghan should be stripped naked and pelted with excrement. Disgraceful.”

The Labour MP Diane Abbott has wrongly claimed that culture secretary Michelle Donelan said Jeremy Clarkson was right to say the Duchess of Sussex, Meghan Markle should be “stripped naked and pelted with excrement”. 

At the time of writing the tweet has been retweeted more than 200 times and viewed more than 160,000 times. 

Her tweet carried a link to a story from The Telegraph which featured a number of quotes from Ms Donelan on the matter. However, the headline on the story reads: “Jeremy Clarkson has right ‘to say what he wants’ about Meghan, says Culture Secretary”.

Ms Donelan’s comments in the paper appear to have been taken from an interview she gave to BBC Radio 4’s The Media Show that same day.  

She was speaking in response to questions about a now-deleted article written for The Sun on 16 December, in which Mr Clarkson said he dreamed of the Duchess being paraded through the streets of every British town naked while crowds hurl excrement and chant “shame”. 

Ms Donelan told the BBC: “I defend his right to be able to say what he wants. I believe in freedom of speech very, very strongly. Obviously, we all have to be mindful of what we say and the ramifications of that, but I am a believer of freedom of speech.

“I think that he had the right to say what he wanted to say, but obviously it was going to get the reaction that it got and it was going to concern a number of people. I wouldn’t have said what he said and I don’t align myself with the comments that he made, categorically no, of course I don’t.”

Mr Clarkson later apologised for his comments and the article was removed from the Sun’s website. By 20 December the column had received more than 20,000 complaints - the highest ever number received by the Independent Press Standards Organisation. 

Many Twitter users have pointed out the error that Ms Abbott has made.

We have contacted Ms Abbott for comment and will update this article with her response. 

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After we published this fact check, we contacted Diane Abbott to request a correction regarding this claim.

Ms Abbott did not respond.

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