Susanna Reid has told viewers of the first edition of Good Morning Britain after the departure of Piers Morgan that they “disagreed on many things”, including his remarks on the Duchess of Sussex, and described him as an “outspoken, challenging, opinionated, disruptive broadcaster”.
Reid said that Morgan, who is understood to have left after a clash with ITV executives because he refused to apologise for casting doubt on the veracity of Meghan’s comments about her thoughts of suicide, had “decided to leave the programme”.
“It is certainly going to be very different but shows go on and so on we go,” she added.
Morgan walked off set on Tuesday after a disagreement with the weather presenter Alex Beresford and was to face an Ofcom investigation after 41,000 complaints over his remarks, including one sent on Meghan’s behalf. In a tweet, sent while the programme was on air on Wednesday morning, Morgan appeared to confirm that his refusal to retract his comments lay behind his exit.
He wrote: “On Monday, I said I didn’t believe Meghan Markle in her Oprah interview. I’ve had time to reflect on this opinion, and I still don’t. If you did, OK. Freedom of speech is a hill I’m happy to die on.” He said he was “off to spend more time with my opinions” and appended a Winston Churchill quote about free speech.
Speaking outside his home, he told Sky News that his departure had been “amicable” and said: “I had a good chat with ITV and we agreed to disagree.” He said he would enter a “temporary hibernation” and was “always in talks with people”.
During Tuesday’s GMB Morgan said he had “serious concerns about the veracity of a lot” of Meghan’s account but that it was “not for me to question if she felt suicidal”. On Wednesday he said again he was sceptical of the duchess’s story, saying: “If people want to believe Meghan Markle, that’s entirely their right. I don’t believe almost anything that comes out of her mouth and I think the damage she’s done to the British monarchy and to the Queen at a time when Prince Philip is lying in hospital is enormous and frankly contemptible.
“If I have to fall on my sword for expressing an honestly held opinion about Meghan Markle and that diatribe of bilge that she came out with in that interview, so be it.”
Earlier, Ranvir Singh – who stood in for Morgan as Reid’s co-presenter – opened the programme by telling viewers: “We will be talking about what’s on your mind. I know what’s on your mind, we will get to it.”
Later, in a carefully worded monologue, Reid said Morgan “has many critics and he has many fans” and “he has been a voice for many of you and a voice that many of you have railed against”.
“You will know that I disagreed with him about Meghan’s interview,” she said. “He himself clarified his comments about her mental health on the show yesterday. There are many voices on GMB and everyone has their say. But now Piers has decided to leave the programme. Some of you may cheer and others may boo.
“He has been my presenting partner, Monday to Wednesday, for more than five years.”
Later, Singh said: “Piers is a unique individual … someone who had no fear about how people saw him, or the impact possibly about what he said had on other people.”
By early evening on Tuesday, Ofcom had received more than 41,000 complaints about Morgan’s remarks, prompting the broadcasting regulator to launch an investigation into whether his comments broke the UK broadcasting code relating to harm and offence.
The Guardian understands a formal complaint was lodged with ITV on behalf of the duchess after the broadcast.
After the announcement, ITV released a statement saying: “Following discussions with ITV, Piers Morgan has decided now is the time to leave Good Morning Britain. ITV has accepted this decision and has nothing further to add.”
Meghan told Oprah Winfrey she had asked to seek outpatient care to help with her thoughts of suicide, but was told she should not do so.
Morgan questioned on Monday’s edition of GMB whether the duchess was telling the truth. “Who did you go to?” he said. “What did they say to you? I’m sorry, I don’t believe a word she said, Meghan Markle. I wouldn’t believe it if she read me a weather report.”