The Volokh Conspiracy
Mostly law professors | Sometimes contrarian | Often libertarian | Always independent
The Complaint, for those who are interested, is here. The core allegation:
On March 7, 2021, CBS aired a "Primetime Special" — viewed by approximately 50 million people worldwide — featuring Oprah Winfrey interviewing Meghan and Prince Harry. During the interview, in a calculated effort to damage and discredit the Plaintiff and her published autobiography, the Defendant falsely and maliciously stated that: (1) she was "an only child"; (2) she last saw the Plaintiff "at least 18, 19 years ago and before that, 10 years before that"; and (3) Plaintiff only changed her surname to Markle in her early 50s when Meghan started dating Prince Harry….
Defendant intentionally and with actual malice published the following false and defamatory statements with full knowledge of the falsity thereof and with the specific intent to cause substantial harm and damage to Plaintiff's reputation and good name:
[a.] SAMANTHA "dropped out of high school." This is false. In her attempt to discredit SAMANTHA, MEGHAN implies that SAMANTHA is an uneducated, high school dropout. But the truth is that SAMANTHA was seriously injured from a fall from a rope swing, resulting in paralysis on her left side and blindness in one eye at that time, and she was then diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. SAMANTHA missed school due to the paralysis, blindness, and multiple sclerosis diagnosis. SAMANTHA completed high school and has earned two degrees, including a Masters Degree in Mental Health Counseling/Vocational Rehabilitation Counseling.
[b.] MEGHAN saw SAMANTHA only "a handful of times" and Meghan has "never had a relationship with either of them" [SAMANTHA or TOM]. This is false. SAMANTHA spent time with Defendant on a regular basis throughout her childhood and even lived in the same apartment house with Defendant for a period of time. SAMANTHA picked up MEGHAN from school; took MEGHAN for ice cream and to the mall regularly, and spent many family holidays with the Defendant. MEGHAN's father was MEGHAN's primary care-giver and MEGHAN and SAMANTHA saw each other regularly. MEGHAN visited SAMANTHA in Virginia and attended SAMANTHA's college graduation in New Mexico in 2008 (see photo attached as Exhibit 9); they spoke on the telephone and exchanged emails; and MEGHAN even called SAMANTHA from the Green Room when MEGHAN was a Briefcase Model on the television show Deal or No Deal. This is an attempt by MEGHAN to create the false impression that MEGHAN was essentially an only child with no contact with other family members, or as MEGHAN stated on Oprah, that she had "no siblings." MEGHAN apparently wanted to convince the public that her family members knew nothing about her life and, thus, were not qualified to contradict the false narrative MEGHAN had fabricated about her life.
[c.] "Upon Meghan dating Harry, SAMANTHA changed her last name back to MARKLE." This is false. SAMANTHA's surname from birth is MARKLE and MARKLE was always her maiden name. SAMANTHA has been married twice and went by SAMANTHA GRANT and SAMANTHA RASMUSSEN while married, but she never stopped using her maiden name MARKLE. This is an effort by MEGHAN to discredit SAMANTHA by falsely stating that SAMANTHA changed her name to cash-in on MEGHAN's name once she started dating Prince Harry.
[d.] SAMANTHA began a "career creating stories to sell to the press." This is false. SAMANTHA never "created" any story to sell to the press. In fact, the media has contacted and harassed SAMANTHA on a constant basis and she agreed to be interviewed in order to defend herself from the false stories regularly published in print and television media, including those disseminated by the Defendant.
[e.] SAMANTHA had "lost custody of all three of her children." This is false. SAMANTHA never lost custody of any of her children. This is MEGHAN trying to destroy SAMANTHA's credibility and reputation because a mother must be doing something very wrong to lose custody of her children.
[f.] SAMANTHA had three children from three different fathers. This is false. SAMANTHA has been married twice and has three children. As one reporter noted, this is MEGHAN's attempt to "slut-shame" SAMANTHA and further destroy her credibility and reputation.
[g.] SAMANTHA brokered press deals for her father. This is false. There has never been an interview, statement, or any sort of "press deal" that was brokered or set-up or that went through SAMANTHA. SAMANTHA never received one penny from an interview with her father. Again, MEGHAN is attempting to discredit SAMANTHA by suggesting she was selling access to her Father.
I of course can't speak to the accuracy of the allegations, but it will be interesting to see how the case develops. (Note that at least some of the statements, even if false, might not be viewed as defamatory; generally speaking, to be defamatory a statement must be of the sort that tends to substantially damage a person's reputation, so for instance saying someone brokered press deals for her father is probably not defamatory even it's untrue.)