Ahead of her highly-anticipated "wide-ranging" interview with Oprah Winfrey, Meghan Markle is hitting back at claims she bullied royal aides during her time at Kensington Palace. After The Times published a report quoting unnamed sources alleging the Duchess of Sussex had faced a bullying complaint from a staff member, Markle, via a spokesperson for herself and husband Prince Harry, dubbed the allegations a "calculated smear campaign."
In the statement, which was provided to The Times, the spokesperson stated, "let's just call this what it is -- a calculated smear campaign based on misleading and harmful misinformation." The spokesperson went on to call the allegations disappointing, expanding, "we are disappointed to see this defamatory portrayal of The Duchess of Sussex given credibility by a media outlet." In a separate statement provided to Entertainment Tonight, the spokesperson suggested that it was "no coincidence" that the "distorted several-year-old" allegations were brought forth "to the British media shortly before she and the duke are due to speak openly and honestly about their experience of recent years."
"The duchess is saddened by this latest attack on her character, particularly as someone who has been the target of bullying herself and is deeply committed to supporting those who have experienced pain and trauma," the spokesperson continued. "She is determined to continue her work building compassion around the world and will keep striving to set an example for doing what is right and doing what is good."
According to The Times' report, Markle faced a bullying complaint claiming she "drove two personal assistants out of the household and was undermining the confidence of a third staff member." The report was made in October 2019 by the royal couple's communications secretary at the time, Jason Knauf, "seemingly in an effort to get Buckingham Palace to protect staff who he claimed were coming under pressure from the duchess." According to the report, "Prince Harry pleaded with Knauf not to pursue it.” A source alleged that "members of staff, particularly young women, were being bullied to the point of tears." One aide told the outlet it felt "more like emotional cruelty and manipulation," with one former employee explaining "they had been personally 'humiliated' by her and claimed that two members of staff had been bullied."
In a statement to The Times, the couple's lawyers said the allegations are "being used by Buckingham Palace to peddle a wholly false narrative" before their Sunday, March 7 interview with Winfrey, titled Oprah with Meghan and Harry: A CBS Primetime Special. According to Winfrey, the couple revealed "pretty shocking things" during their sit-down, which will mark their first televised interview since their engagement.