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YouTubers dupe royal 'experts' into analysing Oprah interview before it aired

Four royal commentators were filmed passing comment on the interview with Meghan Markle and Prince Harry before seeing it.

Prince Harry and Meghan Markle with other members of the Royal family in 2017

The Duke and Duchess of Sussex were criticised for their performances during a TV interview before it had even aired. Credit: Flickr (rambomuscles)

Leading royal commentators are facing criticism after accepting payment to give their views on an long-awaited  Oprah Winfrey interview with Prince Harry and Meghan Markle days before they had seen it.

Four so-called experts, including a former member of the Queen’s press team, were filmed by YouTube filmmakers passing comment on the content of the TV special before it had aired.

The CBS special interview, which aired in the US on Sunday evening, will be shown on ITV in the UK on Monday at 9pm.

The show featured a number of claims by the Royal couple, including accusing an unnamed royal of racism and suggesting the family were jealous of Meghan. The Duchess of Sussex also opened up about how she contemplated suicide while pregnant.

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Josh Pieters and Archie Manners, who created fake news company Beneath the Fold in order to carry out the hoax, told the collection of journalists and talking heads they would be broadcasting their analysis immediately after the CBS show ended.

The pair tricked the Queen’s former press secretary Dickie Arbiter, his daughter and CNN’s royal commentator Victoria Arbiter, editor-in-chief of Majesty magazine Ingrid Seward, and royal commentator Richard Fitzwilliams last week, with all four receiving undisclosed fees for their appearances.

In the hoax video, which was posted on Friday and has been viewed more than 720,000 times, the subjects are asked about topics which do not feature in the interview, including Meghan Markle “saying she would not take the vaccine”, which was labelled “selfish” by Mr Arbiter.

Elsewhere, Ms Seward said the interview showed “an actress giving one of her great performances”, in describing the Duchess of Sussex, claiming she was acting “from start to finish”.

Oprah Winfrey in Denmark on 30 September 2009 to promote Chicago as Olympic host
Oprah Winfrey
Oprah Winfrey was also criticised by the royal commentators ahead of the release of the interview. Credit: Bill Ebbesen (Wikimedia Commons)

US television host Oprah also came under fire from Mr Fitzwilliams despite his lack of knowledge of questioning, with claims Ms Winfrey had been “sympathetic” with the couple and given them an “easy ride”.

Mr Fitzwilliams described the video as a “sting”, saying the comments”would be broadcast depending on what was in the interview, so nothing inappropriate would have appeared from anyone contributing”.

He added: “There is nothing whatever dishonourable in it. The comments of contributors have clearly been used out of context and this is simply a sting.”

CNN journalist Victoria Arbiter said she was “moved, stunned, saddened” by the description of the relationship between Prince William and Prince Harry in the interview, despite the show having not aired.

Pieters and Manners, said in the video: “No one has actually seen what Harry and Meghan have to say. Instead the airwaves are full of royal experts influencing public opinion by giving their views into the soap opera of the decade.

“But do these experts actually know what they are talking about? Would these paid commentators give a review of an interview they had not yet seen?”

The pair said their offer was accepted within minutes by the commentators. They told the Big Issue it was up to viewers to make their minds up on the behaviour, but compared the experts’ decision to give opinions on the interview before having seen it to commentating on a football match before watching it.

The YouTube video goes on: “The experts were happy to act as if they had already seen the interview. Four leading royal experts willingly commentating on something they know absolutely nothing about. Perhaps when it comes to Harry and Meghan, there’s more to the story.”

All four commentators were approached for comment by the Big Issue.

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