First Thing: Explosive Meghan interview reveals racism and royal neglect

Molly Blackall
·7 min read

Good morning.

The Duchess of Sussex revealed that she was left with suicidal thoughts as a result of her treatment by the tabloid media and the royal family, and that despite her reaching out for support with her mental health, the palace had failed to protect her. This was one of a number of explosive revelations that came to light during the eagerly anticipated interview between Meghan, Prince Harry and Oprah Winfrey, which aired primetime in the US last night.

Perhaps the most shocking allegation made during the interview was that a member of the royal family had raised concerns with her husband over the skin colour of their baby, with “conversations about how dark his skin might be” taking place while she was pregnant.

Harry also revealed that his father, Prince Charles, stopped taking his calls, and that the family had stopped paying for the couple’s security at the start of 2020 – with this apparently motivating the decision to take on lucrative deals with Netflix. You can read a summary of the key allegations from the interview here, including news that they married in secret three days before their Windsor Castle wedding.

  • Royal commentators were pranked into criticising the couple’s performance before they had seen the interview, with two YouTube stars setting up a fake media company and paying leading commentators, including the Queen’s former press secretary, to give their views days before the interview was broadcast. Some were also duped into discussing false topics supposedly covered in the Oprah interview, including Meghan’s support for a London donkey sanctuary and refusal to have the coronavirus vaccine.

Former police officer charged with killing George Floyd will be tried today

The former police officer who killed George Floyd is coming in front of a judge today, in what promises to be one of the most significant police trials in US history. A video of Floyd’s death, which came after an officer knelt on his neck for eight minutes and 46 seconds as he begged for his life, went viral last summer, triggering waves of protests in the US and around the world. Derek Chauvin, who is white, is charged with second degree murder and second degree manslaughter, with three other former officers charged with aiding and abetting set to be tried in August.

But many in Minneapolis, where the killing took place, fear that justice will not be served.

“I feel kind of scared that we won’t see [what] we want to see. And we’ll be in the streets, like we were the whole summer,” said Zarieah Graves, an activist in Minneapolis.

  • A reporter is being tried over her arrest while covering Black Lives Matter protests last year, in a case criticised as an attack on press freedom by Amnesty International and a range of US news organisations. Andrea Sahouri is charged with “failure to disperse and interference with official acts, misdemeanors”, after being arrested despite identifying herself repeatedly as a member of the press.

Andrew Cuomo is losing allies over harassment and bullying allegations

A protest to demand the resignation of the New York governor, Andrew Cuomo
A protest to demand the resignation of the New York governor, Andrew Cuomo, after a third woman accused him of sexual harassment, on 2 March. A further two women have since come forward. Photograph: Kena Betancur/AFP/Getty Images

Andrew Cuomo’s grip on power appeared to be slipping yesterday, after two of the most powerful Democrats in New York said it was time for him to resign, amid multiple claims of sexual harassment and workplace bullying. The majority leader of the state senate, Andrea Stewart-Cousins, said the state needed to govern “without daily distraction”, while the Speaker of the assembly, Carl Heastie, called the allegations “disturbing”.

But Cuomo refused to budge, confirming to reporters that he would not quit, and reportedly telling Cousins she would need to impeach him. Five women have now come forward accusing Cuomo of sexual harassment, while the Washington Post published new claims of bullying and building a “hostile, toxic workplace environment” this weekend. Cuomo has apologised for comments that made any of the women uncomfortable while denying inappropriate touching. He has also faced calls to quit over allegations he misled the public about the number of coronavirus deaths in nursing homes.

  • Cuomo is testing the Democrats’ commitment to #MeToo, writes the Washington DC bureau chief David Smith, with national political figures yet to join the chorus of calls for him to resign. The silence has led to accusations of hypocrisy.

Fauci urged states not to ease coronavirus restrictions yet

Anthony Fauci
Anthony Fauci, Biden’s chief medical adviser, urged states to hold off on relaxing public health measures. Photograph: Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty Images

The US’s top infectious diseases expert, Dr Anthony Fauci, warned it was too early to end coronavirus restrictions, as some states begin to ease public health measures following a drop in the number of cases. Speaking on CBS on Sunday, Fauci said the country was “going in the right direction but we just need to hang on a bit longer”. Public health experts have warned that the progress in reducing the spread of the virus could unravel quickly if restrictions are eased too soon – particularly as more infectious variants begin to spread across the US.

Fauci’s intervention comes after Texas and Mississippi lifted their mask-wearing mandates and limits on capacity in businesses. They aren’t the only states who have come under fire for jumping the gun; Michigan has also relaxed limits on restaurants and gatherings, San Francisco opened movie theatres, gyms and museums and restaurants for indoor dining, and New York will next week allow weddings of up to 150.

  • The Netherlands allowed 1,300 people to go clubbing this weekend as part of an experiment into the risks of reopening nightclubs. The participants wore a tag to trace their movements and contacts, and were divided into five bubbles, each of which had to comply with different behavioural rules. The data collected will help the government decide how to ease restrictions in coming months.

In other news …

Demonstrators carry placards in a protest after the burqa ban referendum was narrowly accepted by the electorate, in Zurich, Switzerland, 7 March 2021.
Demonstrators carry placards in a protest after the burqa ban referendum was narrowly accepted by the electorate, in Zurich, Switzerland, 7 March 2021. Photograph: Alexandra Wey/EPA
  • Switzerland will ban the burqa and niqab in public places, after a close referendum, following similar moves by France, Belgium and Austria. The country voted 51% to ban the religious dress, in a move Muslim groups have described as an attack on the community.

  • Promotion for a Golden-Globe-winning film has been axed in China following accusations that the Beijing-born director criticised China in 2013. Chloé Zhao had previously been described as the “pride of China” in state media after becoming the first Asian woman in history to win a Golden Globes award for best director at this year’s ceremony.

  • Police have occupied hospitals and universities in Myanmar and reportedly arrested hundreds of people for demonstrating against last month’s military coup, amid calls from labour unions for a nationwide strike today.

Stat of the day: detention centres have been releasing white youths at a 17% higher rate than Black

The racial inequality in youth detention is more stark than ever before, according to a leading children’s group. By May 2020, detention centres were releasing white youths at a 17% higher rate than Black youths, and the racial gap is widening, data from the group shows. Since the coronavirus pandemic, more people of colour are also being detained for longer. The situation has left many youth facilities with almost entirely Black and Latino populations.

Don’t miss this: the lives of teenage girls through their diaries

On International Women’s Day, Masuma Ahuka discusses her book, a collection of diary entries from 30 teenage girls growing up in 27 different countries. The book gives a snapshot into the daily lives of girls around the world, from violence to education to hopes and dreams.

Last Thing: how Virginia shifted to become the most progressive southern state

People watch as the Confederate soldiers and sailors statue is removed on 8 July 2020 in Richmond, Virginia, on the order of Mayor Levar Stoney.
People watch as the Confederate soldiers and sailors statue is removed on 8 July 2020 in Richmond, Virginia, on the order of Mayor Levar Stoney. Photograph: Eze Amos/Getty Images

From Confederate generals fighting to keep slavery to executing the highest number of prisoners of any state, Virginia has an undeniable history. But the state has made a dramatic change of direction in recent years, voting to abolish the death penalty last year, passing strict gun laws, and easing abortion restrictions. David Smith explores how it became the most progressive southern state.

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