So, Prince Harry gabs with ITV and CBS ahead of the launch of his memoir. Yawn?
Prince Harry talking quite happily to Anderson Cooper. Screen shot: 60 Minutes/CBS
And you thought you could start the new year without a word from the Sussexes. But it was never in doubt that the December 2022 Netflix docu-series Harry and Meghan (part one and part two, both three episodes each) was not going to be the last of their “whinge-fest”, as some British media watchers called it. The whining continued the past couple of days when Prince Harry appeared in two different interviews, each targeting different audiences across the Atlantic. There was CBC’s 60 Minutes presented by CNN’s Anderson Cooper and ITV’s Harry: The Interview by Tom Bradby. Both seasoned journalists were, surprisingly, rather gentle on the pity-seeking duke, and the interlocutions went on rather amiably. Mr Bradby, to us, scored better on the aggressive scale, and, hence, offered a better session. To be certain, we weren’t expecting Stephen Sackur on Hard Talk (BBC), but we were hoping for far more bite. Mr Cooper and Mr Bradby did ask some “tough” questions (the latter, more), but were they tough enough? And did we get answers that we have not already heard, or were they mere variations of the same theme? Was that why Prince Harry was not given the full hour (just slightly more than half) for a show called 60 Minutes? He was luckier with ITV—they gave him an hour, and a generous forty minutes more.
Both shows were aired, presumably, to preface the launch of his upcoming book, Spare. That he had agreed to be interviewed by Anderson Cooper is not surprising as the CNN journalist is not part of the nasty British press corp that Prince Harry loathes and is not known to be that hard on any of his interviewees, including one Donald J Trump. Mr Cooper was generally nice in front of the royal, even when saying that the comment in the book about the Prince of Wales (“his familiar scowl, which had always been his default in dealings with me, his alarming baldness, more advanced than my own, his famous resemblance to Mummy which was fading with time, with age”) “is cutting”. Frankly, it’s bordering on the bitchy. Even the Prince smirked at the description—or was he delighted at how good or clever that criticism sounded? The interviewer sometimes seemed sympathetic. Even his subject agreed with the news anchor’s observation: “You’re absolutely right; you hit the nail on the head.” They were like chums (even walking in a garden) agreeing on the beauty of a lass. This rather affable exchange befits a book launch. And if you won’t be bothered to read Spare, this is good enough to know that Prince Harry, for whom “silence is betrayal”, is still a troubled and aggrieved chap, who considers his mother’s death the work of the collective devil known as the paparazzi and his step-mother’s rise the diabolical plotting of a “villain”.
The sit-down with ITV was not much more different in terms of the questions posed, but Tom Bradby was more willing to grill, to incur the potential wrath of the new Californian resident. Mr Bradby, if you are not aware (or can’t recall), is the journalist who asked Meghan Markle if she was doing okay (and how she ardently appreciated that and brought it up in Harry and Meghan) during the Sussexes’s tour of South Africa in September 2019 (earlier, he attended their wedding). It is possible that Prince Harry had thought that since Mr Bradby was nice, even showing concern, to his wife, the news veteran would be just as affable to him. Mr Bradby came as a journalist, not the Prince’s PR vehicle, or a sympathiser. He did not ask his interviewee if he was okay. He was, in fact, willing to counter some of the latter’s accusations, even saying, in response to the “sibling rivalry”, as was described to Mr Cooper and My Bradby, “I think he (Prince William) would say he found you emotional, defensive, he couldn’t get through to you…” The spare was not amused. “It’s quite a list—list of things, assumptions you’re making,” he hit back. He was, for all to see—and note, not okay.
This irritability, this displeasure, this WTF expression on his face culminated to palpable anger when Mr Bradby brought up the Oprah Winfrey interview some two years ago, and spoke of the racism levelled against the royal family that was broached then. We could sense the Duke bristling. He challenged the journalist, “did Meghan ever mention that we were racists?” Mr Bradby, not expecting the change of narrative, fumbled in his follow-up, searching for better words. The interviewee would not let the other guy finish his line of questioning, interrupting Mr Bradby repeatedly. Either Prince Harry has been well trained in the course of putting together the Netflix show about he and his wife’s truths, or he has a natural flair for gaslighting. Again, as with everything else, the British press were to be blamed; they painted the racism picture, not the Sussexes. The two of them were only concerned with “unconscious bias”, which, in the prince’s “own experience”, we are are now informed, is not the same as racism: “the two things are different”, he said with needed emphasis. And, once you are made aware that you have unconscious bias, “you have the opportunity to learn and grow from that in order so that you can be a part of the solution rather than the problem. Otherwise, unconscious bias then moves into the category of racism”. And we now know, too, that the one-time cocaine/marijuana/magic mushroom user—as admitted in both interviews—is a profound thinker!
On ITV, deeply displeased. Screen shot: ITV News
Curiously, for both interviews, Prince Harry put on identical sweaters—a dark green one for CBS and a navy for ITV, and the two were worn over similar shirts with straight collars, tucked under the ribbed neckline of the plain knitwear. And coincidentally, Anderson Cooper, not known to be a fashionable dresser, was similarly attired. In the shot of the two of them walking in a garden, both men were seen in identical silhouettes: neat and trim, accentuated by their slim, tailored, Raffles-Place-at-lunchtime trousers. Even the belts seemed alike. This could be a dad look that suggested serious business was at hand. Even a cable-knit sweater could be considered frivolous, and likely, a pair of jeans—the American staple. In contrast, Tom Bradby wore a dark blazer under a dark, rather than contrast-coloured shirt, clearly setting himself apart from a need-to-look-royal interview subject. Sure, the prince was not interviewed by Graham Norton or Naomi Campbell. He need not appear interesting or trendy. Still, something-to-look-at clothes might have made his dull, repetitive replies less tedious.
Without his wife in tow on both shows, Prince Harry looked sad, an approaching-middle-age man unable to let go of his past or the wrongs he perceived was waged against him. Even without the missus by his side, he was in his accusatory best, and was quickly incensed and readily defensive, and constantly reminding us that his relationship with his famous family is fraught, and all of them are to be blamed for his misery, a life “put through… a blender as such”. You’d think that now, with the life he has always wanted, in marvelous Montecito (presently under a storm/flash flood warning. Residents have been told to evacuate, but it is not known if the Sussexes’s home is affected), he’s closer to attaining contentment, even just a vestige of it. But, far from that, he is still mad, still disgruntled, and still playing up the I-grew-up-without-a-mother disadvantage to gain by-now-limited sympathy. He told Tom Bradby: “I do not want history to repeat itself. I do not want to be a single dad. I certainly do not want my children to have a life without a mother or a father.” For all the talk of unconscious bias, Prince Harry should, perhaps, seriously consider self-fulfilling prophecies too.