PIERS Morgan is many, many things: loud, brash, opinionated, polarising…politically correct, he is not.
The Good Morning Britain star reveals he has been subject to internal complaints from ITV colleagues over claims of “ableism”, after suggesting able-bodied Hollywood actors should be able to play disabled parts.
Not surprisingly, he is now on a mission to help the nation get a “collective grip” in the wake of increasingly divisive environmental, gender, and political diktats.
The 55-year-old presenter rants: “I was accused of being ableist because I believe that the best way to advance the rights of disabled people in the entertainment world is not to automatically give all disabled roles to disabled people.
“Otherwise we would never have had Tom Cruise in Born on the Fourth of July, or Daniel Day-Lewis in My Left Foot or Tom Hanks in Philadelphia.
“Huge box office stars shine a light on these things, which then does immeasurably good for all the causes.
“I don’t think the answer is to just say automatically that every disabled role goes to someone who’s disabled. And the same applies to gay roles.
“It just seems to me just pointless virtue signalling and it probably wouldn’t work because you’re then reliant on actors in most cases that people have never heard of launching a film like, you know, Philadelphia.
“Adam Pearson, you know the guy, the disabled presenter – he was on my side. But some people at ITV were complaining to the top about me being ableist, and that’s where the pressure gets to you. It’s madness.”
While Piers certainly is no bleeding heart liberal, off-screen he is decidedly less bombastic than his on-camera persona.
By his own admission he is a “feminist”, he has scores of gay friends, backs trans rights, and is wholly supportive of the ongoing TV diversity drive.
Next month the former Sun man is publishing a new book, Wake Up: Why The World Has Gone Nuts, which explores this new cultural phenomenon, and is penned in diary form starting from January 1st this year.
According to the Oxford English dictionary, “woke” is defined as: “well-informed: alert to racial or social discrimination and injustice.”
Prince Harry and Meghan Markle – with their hypocritical condemnation of air travel (whilst getting private jets) and lecturing on global poverty (from their £11millon Californian mansion) – are everything Piers despises. But more on this deserting duo later.
He adds: “The book’s about everything from gender, to race, to identity, politics, to sexism, to feminism, to masculinity: all these things, we’ve all got to get a collective grip.
“So I’m hoping the book, when it comes out, will wake people up and at the very least, let us have a debate without everyone throwing their toys out the pram.
“It’s got to the stage where the majority of people are now too scared to offer any opinion about anything, particularly if you’re in any form of public life.
“We had a story on GMB this week about a hair salon in Gloucestershire, where the owner wasn’t allowed to apply for a ‘happy’ stylist because it was discriminatory to unhappy people. I mean, f*** off! What is the world coming to?
“It’s like the Extinction Rebellion thing last week – why would you shut down newspapers which can spread the message you want them to spread on the very day The Sun carries David Attenborough, giving a message, a clarion call, about climate change? It’s the most pathetic act of self harm I have ever seen.”
Famously – mainly because Piers has revelled in recalling the story – the Duchess of Sussex ‘ghosted’ the star after befriending him on Twitter.
The pair even enjoyed a night out in Piers’ local West London pub before she ditched him after meeting Harry.
The broadcaster, back this weekend with a new series of Life Stories, believes the pair should relinquish their royal titles and live as civilians.
He explains: “It’s great they’ve paid back the Frogmore money, it’s great they’re not taking any more of Charles’s money, but they’ve kept the titles – and if you really want to find freedom, and you really want to divorce the country, why would you keep the titles ‘Duke and Duchess of Sussex’?
“I’m from Sussex and I bet I’ve spent more time there over the past week than they have in their entire lives, and yet they want to trade off their royal names to get all this money.
“The only reason Netflix is paying them all this money is because of their royal titles – you think Meghan Markle would have got £1.50 out of them without it?
“What are the odds of Meghan coming on Life Stories to be interviewed by me? Probably minus a gazillion leagues under the sea… which is probably where she wants to put me.”
However, one star who did wish to be grilled by Piers – a man famous for making celebs including Cheryl Cole, Paul Gascoigne, Vinnie Jones, Katherine Jenkins and Mel B sob – is Captain Tom Moore.
The 100-year-old war hero, who raised over £33millon for the NHS after walking 100 laps of his garden, appears on this Sunday’s show.
It is, says Piers, his “greatest” episode of all time – and came about after the pair swapped numbers and started having regular phone chats.
“We built a real rapport, and then he started ringing me at home occasionally – he is very funny, with some great one liners,” he smiles.
“He asked if he could come on the show, and on his rider was a can of coke, Dairy Milk chocolate bar and six blondes. He told me the number of blondes was ‘variable’.
“He’s a real ladies’ man. He said to me, ‘Let me put it like this; I’m not allergic to girls’. He loves all that, he has a lot of admirers.
“When I told him how famous he was, and that if I took him to the supermarket, the women would go wild, he replied: ‘Well what’s keeping you then? Let’s go.’
“A lot of women would like to have a cup of tea with Captain Tom – he’s an unashamed ladies man, in the nicest possible way.”
Since returning to our screens following a six week stint holidaying in the South of France, Piers is bigger and better than ever before.
Quite literally, on both fronts. Whilst GMB scored record audience figures last week, Piers himself is also a generous half stone bigger.
With an ego, by his own admission, large enough to circumnavigate the globe, (twice) the Arsenal fan – married to stunning journalist, Celia – isn’t exactly lacking in confidence.
But he admits he has been shamed into dieting after piling on the pounds – and being dubbed ‘seven chins’.
He has now embarked on a stringent diet, employed a former Olympian personal trainer, Sarah Lindsay, and has dramatically reduced his booze intake.
Chatting over scrambled eggs, (wholemeal) toast (without butter) and grilled tomatoes at a West London private members club, Piers says: “Susanna calls me ‘Chubster’ and ‘fatso’.
“Even Dr Hilary piled in, and he’s a doctor! He said, ‘at least I’m not overweight,’ and cackled like Jack Nicholson in The Shining.
“And Kevin Pieterson calls me ‘Seven chins’, which isn’t very nice. I’m trying to get them down to six.”
So how’s he doing it?
“I’m going to see a new personal trainer, and unfortunately Celia’s taken it all quite seriously, so suddenly it’s all the good stuff’s gone and all the kale’s come in and the quinoa and vegetables. A lot of vegetables. A lot of salmon.
“A lot less Bordeaux – I’m down to one glass a night. And, well, during the summer, a lot of cheese went down my gullet, and and it could stretch to a bottle of red. Quite comfortably.. Depending on the quality, and maybe a little more.”
With a host of celeb pals, ranging from Gary Lineker and Emily Maitlis to Wayne Rooney and Jamie Vardy, one former friend he has recently fallen out with is The Apprentice star, Lord Alan Sugar.
Today, the ex-Spurs chairman launched into a scathing attack on Piers, claiming he was “mad”, and only out for self-promotion. So how would Piers like to respond?
“I don’t care about Alan Sugar. I am certainly not going to waste my time talking about it.”
Oh. Moving on. What about his two other footballer pals, Wayne and Jamie, who have unwittingly become embroiled in their wives’ very public falling-out?
The ensuing drama – dubbed Wagatha Christie after Wayne’s wife Coleen turned super-sleuth to claim Jamie’s missus, Rebekah, had leaked stories – has seen Piers trapped between a rock and the proverbial hard place.
He texts both parties regularly, and memorably enjoyed a very drunken dinner with Wayne and Coleen in LA, during which the ex Man Utd star fell into a plant pot, and has been invited into the Leicester striker’s private box to watch Arsenal.
He explains: “It’s tough. I get on well with both sides; I get on well with the Vardys and the Rooneys so I’m kind-of stuck in the middle.
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“But I like Coleen and Wayne, so to me it’s just sad. It’s sad that it’s come to this where they’re at such loggerheads but you know, Rebecca was very convincing this stuff had nothing to do with her. She was adamant to me about it.
“I’m just trying to stay out of it, I just don’t take sides. If you’re friends with people, you shouldn’t say to one side or the other, I’m not talking to you. I hate that, I hate it when people do that.
“But it’s just been fascinating to watch them go at it. If they actually go to court, then I can’t imagine what’s going to come out – it’s complete madness, because all your life gets spilled out.”
- Piers Morgan’s Life Stories airs tomorrow night on ITV1 at 8pm
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