Just hours after his dramatic departure from Good Morning Britain, Piers Morgan posted online a photo of the programme’s staff, praising them for beating their BBC rival’s viewing figures that day.
‘They don’t agree with me, some don’t even like me, but we were a team… and we won,’ he wrote.
It was an acknowledgement of their dedication and his own ecstatic reaction to having achieved the ambition he set himself when he joined the ITV show five years ago.
However, The Mail on Sunday can reveal that some of Morgan’s colleagues hadn’t just helped trounce BBC Breakfast, they were also instrumental in the departure of their star presenter.
Just hours after his dramatic departure from Good Morning Britain, Piers Morgan posted online a photo of the programme’s staff
Morgan’s walk-out followed his dismissive reaction to the Duchess of Sussex’s comments about her mental health at a time when his ITV bosses had been engaged in a major mental health awareness campaign.
The initiative was prompted by the death of Caroline Flack, the troubled Love Island presenter, and widespread concern about the treatment of participants on The Jeremy Kyle Show.
It didn’t help Morgan’s case that Meghan’s friend, ITN newsreader Tom Bradby, has a powerful position within the company.
Morgan’s grand exit, after a fiery on-screen exchange about the Duchess of Sussex with weather presenter Alex Beresford, came after a tumultuous few days in which a group of young studio staff became so angry about the show host’s views that they held an online meeting to air their grievances.
Morgan wouldn’t have known it, but a phalanx of younger team-members with woke opinions had joined Good Morning Britain.
‘They’re young, they’re very woke and some decided it was their mission to save the programme from Morgan, the anti-woke warrior-in-chief,’ says a well-placed ITV source.
The Duke and Duchess of Sussex during their interview with Oprah Winfrey
They had two main complaints: Morgan’s forceful rejection of Meghan’s claims that she was a victim of racism by the Royal Family and that she had felt suicidal, and his perceived sexism for light-heartedly asking his co-presenter Charlotte Hawkins to stand up and show off her short dress.
Susanna Reid the peacemaker
Piers Morgan and Susanna Reid on Good Morning Britain
Susanna Reid talked Piers Morgan out of going straight home after his on-screen clash.
She hastily told viewers there would be an advert break, then followed him backstage and dissuaded him from leaving the studios entirely.
He duly returned, left, to finish what proved to be his last GMB show.
A source said: ‘Susanna was very upset but she is by nature a peacemaker. It was a heroic achievement on her part.’
The insider explained: ‘During their meeting, they agreed it was appalling that Piers Morgan hadn’t understood, respected or believed Meghan’s lived experience of racism.’
These ‘Young Wokeys’, as they’re called at ITV’s White City studios, were said to be in ‘deep distress’ and made their feelings known to their bosses.
Little did it seem to matter that their show had just become the country’s most-watched breakfast TV programme and that its ratings success and media profile were largely due to the personality of Morgan.
But their agitation struck a nerve at a time when a culture war is being waged inside ITV.
On the one hand, the network must boost ratings with popular shows such as Coronation Street, Ant & Dec’s Saturday Night Takeaway and Morgan’s own series, Life Stories.
On the other, it must attract the biggest advertisers. But senior staff also increasingly espouse a right-on, metropolitan mindset.
Having to marry these often conflicting objectives is chief executive Carolyn McCall, once the boss of the woke warriors’ bible, The Guardian newspaper.
She has heavily promoted the mental health awareness campaign after great damage was done to the channel’s reputation when a man took his own life days after appearing on the Jeremy Kyle Show in 2019. The programme was scrapped and ITV lost tens of millions of pounds.
‘This was a big contributing factor to Morgan going,’ says another source. ‘Carolyn had got wrapped up in this mental health umbrella.
‘It is a big corporate deal and is advertised on programmes across the network. Her hands were tied. Unless Piers would make a full apology, he had to leave.’
Yet McCall is a big fan of Morgan.
Palace aide: They all thrive on drama
It would prove to be a richly ironic observation. On the day before the Oprah interview, a senior Royal aide likened the Sussexes to Piers Morgan – suggesting they all thrive on drama.
‘He’s a controversialist – and so are they,’ the Palace insider told The Mail on Sunday.
‘It’s almost as if they don’t exist unless they have something to oppose, something to rail against. In that way they are exactly like Piers Morgan. And like him they seem to thrive on the drama.’
Not even the prescient aide could have foreseen quite how dramatic the couple’s claims would prove to be.
It was the interview and Morgan’s comments about it that ultimately led to him dramatically quitting last week as host of Good Morning Britain.
A colleague says: ‘She likes to be connected to him and she would often say that they were the ‘newspaper people’ and was very proud to be around him and have him on her team.’
She knew he had to be served the ultimatum but her underling, Kevin Lygo, ITV’s director of television, wanted him to stay.
In the end, it wasn’t McCall who delivered the coup de grace.
The job was delegated to Lygo, who sealed the presenter’s fate in ‘just a few phone calls’.
‘It was a pretty simple scenario,’ says an insider. ‘Piers had to say sorry or he went.’
The fact that Meghan made a direct complaint to GMB about Morgan’s reaction to her Oprah interview suggests to some at ITV that she has access to the broadcaster’s internal workings.
Her friend Bradby, ITV’s former royal editor, is said to have been involved in the negotiations to buy the Oprah interview.
Sources at ITV suggest Bradby has ‘significant sway’ over how Meghan is portrayed more widely on the channel and may have been involved in pointing her ‘in the right direction’ with her complaint about Morgan and Good Morning Britain.
‘Tom Bradby has a certain cache at ITV as their news man.
He is also the man with the golden goose in the bosses’ eyes as he has a hotline to Prince Harry,’ says another source.
The Duchess of Sussex has also lodged a complaint about Morgan with the broadcasting industry regulator Ofcom.