Recollections may vary when it comes to Meghan and Harry’s catastrophic car chase. The Sussexes’ statement this week supplied fodder for the front pages, and more importantly my group chats, if nothing else. “Near fatal is such a great phrase,” one friend said, “anything can be near fatal if you squint hard enough.”
She’s referring to the press release put out by the Duke and Duchess of Sussex on Wednesday, which claimed that they were “involved in a near catastrophic car chase at the hands of a ring of highly aggressive paparazzi.”
“This relentless pursuit,” they said, “lasting over two hours, resulted in multiple near collisions involving other drivers on the road, pedestrians and two NYPD officers.”
It didn’t take long for their story to start falling apart. Camilla Tominey from the Daily Telegraph wrote that there was “a gap between fantasy and reality that you could drive a car through.” Details remain hazy of the two-hour car chase that, by the way, is said to have taken place in the busy, often gridlocked streets of Manhattan. If there’s one thing New Yorkers like to do, it’s tell you the ins and outs of living in New York. Within minutes of the statement’s release Manhattanites were countering that a two-hour high speed chase in one of the most congested cities on earth is all but impossible.
The NYPD’s response proved more revealing. “There were numerous photographers that made their transport challenging,” they said in a statement provided to The Spectator, adding that: “the Duke and Duchess of Sussex arrived at their destination and there were no reported collisions, summonses, injuries or arrests in regard.”
The photo agency Backgrid, who retained the services of the cameraman and photographers, released a statement saying that “according to the photographers present, there were no near-collisions or near-crashes during this incident.” Harry and Meghan reacted to this undermining of their “truth” calmly: by sending a legal letter to the agency, demanding copies of all their photographs and footage. But Backgrid’s lawyer was unfazed, responding, “In America, as I’m sure you know, property belongs to the owner of it: third parties cannot just demand it be given to them, as perhaps kings can do. Perhaps you should sit down with your client and advise them that his English rules of royal prerogative to demand that the citizenry hand over their property to the Crown were rejected by this country long ago. We stand by our founding fathers.”
It wouldn’t be the first time the couple have hyperbolized. In 2020 they claimed to Oprah Winfrey that Meghan and their then unborn child had been the victims of racism. Three years later, the couple backtracked and said that it was more an example of “unconscious bias.” But exaggerations aside, Harry and Meghan have often mislead us and then gaslit us into thinking that we must have misheard them. After three years of this, the public is rightfully wary to believe anything they say. Also, you’ll notice that Harry hasn’t released the footage that the pair recorded on his cell phone, which would prove their story in seconds. Maybe he’s already signed away the exclusive rights to Netflix.
It’s slightly sad that it has come to this. When any other celebrity claims that they were involved in a scary incident, we have no reason to question them. (Well, except Jussie Smollett.) But Meghan and Harry have created an atmosphere that has made it hard to trust them when they tell us the color of their socks.
There is also the Diana angle. In the mental health docuseries, The Me You Can’t See, Harry said, “My mother was chased to her death. And now look what’s happened. You want to talk about history repeating itself? They’re not going to stop until she dies.”
Since they met, the couple have made an admirable effort to play the Meghan-Diana arc. Except the real vulnerability of Diana, who was hounded by the press from nineteen years old, is simply incomparable to Harry marrying a thirty-seven-year-old American actress and blogger. It’s possible that this latest statement is a result of Prince Harry’s paranoia, which is understandable.
“The Diana comparisons have caused unnecessary hurt for William,” a source close to Harry’s family claimed. “The family had just started to move on from previous sagas with the Sussexes.”
I wrote a few weeks back that we should be expecting something of a Meghanaissance. The duchess recently hired a new PR team that was taken on specifically to rebuild her plunging reputation with the American public — there is no chance with the British, who think she is an attention-seeking pathological liar. Even I didn’t expect the claim of a near-death experience to be first on the checklist. Did they not think to start with something softer, like an Instagram post or two? It is, needless to say, an unusual early step on the journey to rebuild Meghan Markle.