Meghan Markle's 'Vicious' Clickbait Claims Denied by U.K. Tabloid

Meghan Markle's claims of a "vicious" plan by U.K. tabloid the Mail on Sunday to intimidate five friends who spoke out to defend her have been denied by the newspaper.

The Duchess of Sussex believes lawyers for the Mail on Sunday only want the right to name her inner circle so they can write intrusive stories about them.

The group gave anonymous interviews to People magazine and play a key role in her copyright and privacy case against the tabloid.

Rumors about their identities have been swirling but no confirmation has ever been provided publicly.

In a witness statement seen by Newsweek, Meghan said: "Both the Mail on Sunday and the court system have their names on a confidential schedule, but for the Mail on Sunday to expose them in the public domain for no reason other than clickbait and commercial gain is vicious and poses a threat to their emotional and mental wellbeing."

However, the newspaper told Newsweek it has no intention to publish the names in this weekend's edition.

A spokesperson said: "To set the record straight, The Mail on Sunday had absolutely no intention of publishing the identities of the five friends this weekend.

"But their evidence is at the heart of the case and we see no reason why their identities should be kept secret.

"That is why we told the Duchess's lawyers last week that the question of their confidentiality should be properly considered by the Court."

Meghan Markle, Prince Harry, Queen's Commonwealth Trust
Meghan Markle and Prince Harry attend a roundtable discussion on gender equality with The Queens Commonwealth Trust (QCT) and One Young World at Windsor Castle on October 25, 2019 in Windsor, England. Jeremy Selwyn

The Duchess says her friends spoke to People anonymously because a "no comment" policy at Kensington Palace left her "unprotected" by the monarchy.

She says they wanted to protect her from false and damaging stories in the press at a time when she was prevented from speaking out herself and insists she had no prior knowledge of their actions.

However, the friends mentioned a letter she sent her father in the summer after her wedding to Prince Harry in which she discussed their public falling out.

After People's story was published, Thomas Markle gave the letter to the Mail on Sunday saying the magazine's coverage misrepresented both him and Meghan's words.

The newspaper published extensive extracts claiming her father wanted to set the record straight.

The Duchess says this breached her privacy and copyright over the document, handwritten by her in calligraphy.

On Thursday, a source told Newsweek: "Lawyers for the Mail on Sunday put us on notice in a letter on Monday that the information in our confidential filing should be 'properly reportable by the media'.

"They warned that if we did not apply to the court by today's date then they will assume that the names of the women are no longer confidential.

"This is an absolutely clear threat to publish—and we cannot ignore that it's coming from the very company on trial for unlawful behavior related to privacy."

Meghan's lawyers have filed court papers claiming one of the five friends has already seen her privacy hit by feverish publicity surrounding the case.

A court filing seen by Newsweek today said: "The media and social media interest in this particular case is huge.

"I am aware that this has already had a significant impact on the private life of one of the Five Friends.

"The Defendant's articles of 1 and 2 July 2020 prompted a guessing game in the media (including on social media as to the identities of the Five Friends.

"This has served to greatly increase the identity of the Five Friends as an issue in this case.

"If they are revealed now this will have a significant impact on their lives, as explained above.

"I am concerned that the publicity will intimidate one or more of the Five Friends and dissuade them from agreeing to give evidence in support of the Claimant's case at trial.

"This would not be in the interests of justice and would give the Defendant an unfair advantage in this litigation."

The papers add: "The Five Friends have never been identified or confirmed publicly as having been interviewees for People."