Prince Harry and Meghan Markle Score Big Win in Their Paparazzi Battle

Most Americans believe Prince Harry and Meghan Markle accurately described their experience of a "near catastrophic" car chase with paparazzi in New York City despite a backlash against the couple, an exclusive poll for Newsweek has found.

The Duke and Duchess of Sussex were followed by photographers during what their spokesperson described as a "relentless pursuit, lasting over two hours" following an awards gala on May 16.

However, their account was toned down by New York Mayor Eric Adams, the New York City Police Department (NYPD) and the driver of a taxi they briefly rode in, sparking criticism on social media.

Seventy-two percent of Americans have heard at least something about the drama and of that group, 52 percent said they believed Harry and Meghan's account was accurate, according to a representative sample of 1,500 U.S. adults surveyed by Redfield & Wilton Strategies for Newsweek on May 31.

Prince Harry, Meghan's Paparazzi Incident
Prince Harry and Meghan Markle leave the Ziegfeld Ballroom in New York City, on May 16, 2023, moments before being followed by the paparazzi. Most Americans believe their account of a "near catastrophic" chase, according to polling conducted for Newsweek. James Devaney/GC Images

Younger Americans were more likely to back the Sussexes than older Americans, with 60 percent of 18 to 24-year-olds viewing their account as accurate, 71 percent of 25 to 24-year-olds and 67 percent of 35 to 44-year-olds.

Meanwhile, 43 percent of 45 to 54-year-olds, 35 percent of 55 to 64-year-olds and 40 percent of over 65-year-olds felt the account was accurate.

In a sign of how far their public statement traveled, 26 percent of respondents said they were "very familiar" with the incident while 21 percent were "fairly familiar" and 25 percent were "slightly familiar."

In a further boost, 41 percent said news organizations that published the images had made the wrong decision compared to 28 percent who felt it was the right decision and 31 percent who said they did not know.

News organizations in the United Kingdom, including the Daily Mail, initially printed the pictures taken by the photographers involved before removing them once the Sussexes' account of the paparazzi chase emerged.

However, the U.S. tabloid website TMZ did not remove paparazzi video footage it had published, in a move the Sussex camp previously told Newsweek was "absolutely inexcusable."

The saga had echoes of Princess Diana's death in a car crash in Paris in 1997 when Harry was only 12 years old. Paparazzi photographers were following the car Harry's mother was riding in when driver Henri Paul lost control and crashed into a pillar in the Pont de l'Alma tunnel.

Harry and Meghan's account of their experience in New York after the Women of Vision Awards at Ziegfeld Ballroom sparked a backlash, including from stars like Caitlyn Jenner and Megyn Kelly.

Jenner wrote on Twitter: "I have been party to paps following me in NY (definitely not 2 hrs and plenty of evidence—kind of the point since they have cameras), LA (even in a city with lots of driving and long distances between destinations, not 2 hours, and AGAIN LOTS OF EVIDENCE) it comes with the territory. Whine whine whine is all these 2 seem to do."

Kelly tweeted: "I lived in Manhattan for 17 yrs & it is not possible to have a 2hr 'car chase' there. Too many street lights/stop signs, too much foot/car traffic & hundreds of places you could safely pull over to protect yourself."

However, the backlash does not appear to have had a negative impact on the couple's popularity, which has stabilized since a slump at the start of 2023.

Harry and Meghan had net approval ratings of +38 for the duke and +23 for the duchess in December 2023 but their popularity went into free fall after the publication of the prince's memoir, Spare in January.

The duke dropped 45 points to -7 while Meghan dropped 36 points to -13, though their standing with the U.S. public has since begun to repair.

In Newsweek's latest poll, Harry was liked by 43 percent of Americans and disliked by 25 percent, giving him a net approval rating of +18.

Meghan was liked by 39 percent and disliked by 33 percent, with a net approval rating of +6.

While they remain below their December approval ratings, the Sussex bounce back has not been derailed by the dispute over whether their account of being followed by the paparazzi was accurate.

A statement from the Sussex team on May 17 read: "Last night the Duke and Duchess of Sussex and [Meghan's mother, Doria Ragland] were involved in a near catastrophic car chase at the hands of a ring of highly aggressive paparazzi.

"This relentless pursuit, lasting over two hours, resulted in multiple near collisions involving other drivers on the road, pedestrians and two NYPD officers. While being a public figure comes with a level of interest from the public, it should never come at the cost of anyone's safety."

The NYPD was the first to present a more modest interpretation in their own statement:

"There were numerous photographers that made their transport challenging. The Duke and Duchess of Sussex arrived at their destination and there were no reported collisions, summonses, injuries, or arrests in regard."

Mayor Adams later told journalists at a May 17 press conference: "I would find it hard to believe that there was a two-hour high-speed chase, that would be—I'd find that hard to believe. But we will find out the exact duration of it. But if it's 10 minutes, a 10-minute chase is extremely dangerous in New York City."

Jack Royston is chief royal correspondent for Newsweek, based in London. You can find him on Twitter at @jack_royston and read his stories on Newsweek's The Royals Facebook page.

Do you have a question about King Charles III, William and Kate, Meghan and Harry, or their family that you would like our experienced royal correspondents to answer? Email We'd love to hear from you.

Editor's Picks

Newsweek cover
  • Newsweek magazine delivered to your door
  • Unlimited access to
  • Ad free experience
  • iOS and Android app access
  • All newsletters + podcasts
Newsweek cover
  • Unlimited access to
  • Ad free experience
  • iOS and Android app access
  • All newsletters + podcasts