Meghan Markle accused of faking pregnancy in hostile online comments

Since marrying into the Royal Family, Meghan Markle has become one of the most watched women in the world, but now the scrutiny online has turned from a general interest in the new royal to unpleasant, distasteful and racist comments.

Gemma Joyce, a social data journalist who combs the internet for trends, was compelled to compile the information after realizing just how much nastiness was online about the duchess.

“There’s no shortage of negative things that people are saying,” said Joyce from her office in Brighton, England.   

She says most of the conversation around the Duchess of Sussex online is coming from women, but the majority of them are in the United States followed by the United Kingdom and Canada.

Gemma Joyce, a social data journalist based in Brighton, England, noticed so much online nastiness about Meghan, she decided to dig deep to find out who’s saying what. (Lily Martin/CBC)

“Is it my imagination or does Meghan Markle all of a sudden look like shes trying to be blacker?” tweeted one person.

Another Twitter post shows Meghan carrying bananas on her head.

Some are also pitting Meghan and Kate, the Duchess of Cambridge, against one another.

Joyce said the online vitriol toward the Duchess of Sussex is growing in both volume and viciousness.

The most popular hashtag around the conversation is #Megxit, a play on Brexit.

People want Meghan to “leave” the way Britain is leaving the European Union.

#Megxit, a play on Brexit, is the most popular hashtag around the online discussion of Meghan. (Lily Martin/CBC)

#Moonbump, which targets Meghan’s baby bump, is also gaining popularity, with the duchess and Prince Harry expecting their first child this spring.

“There is this theory going around that she is faking her pregnancy, which to me sounds a little bit mad,” said Joyce. “But there is all kinds of proof that people are sharing online, all these pictures, circling folds in her clothing and stuff like that.”

Fleet Street ‘a critical friend’

The hostility being spewed online is one thing, but there has also been criticism of Meghan’s treatment by the British press.

There has been a great deal of coverage, ranging from stories about the duchess being difficult to work for to the feud between Meghan and her dad and her pricey baby shower with friends in New York City.

It prompted Meghan’s best friends to open up to People magazine — albeit anonymously — defending her as a wonderful person.

Friend George Clooney also came to her defence, saying Meghan is being pursued and vilified the way the late Princess Diana was.

But Camilla Tominey, royal correspondent for the Telegraph, says that comparison is unfair and that much has changed about royal coverage since Diana’s death.

She is also adamant that race has not been a factor in press coverage, but acknowledges there has been some “anti-Americanism” when it comes to reporting on the former Suits actor.

There has been a great deal of British press coverage, ranging from stories about the duchess being difficult to work for to the feud between Meghan and her dad and her pricey baby shower with friends in New York City. (Ian Vogler/Reuters)

“I don’t think it’s been overtly negative. I don’t think it’s been disproportionate,” she said, in an interview outside Kensington Palace in London.

Tominey also said the royals are subsidized by taxpayers and play an official role.

“Largely, I think Fleet Street sees itself as a critical friend of the royals. If they do great things, let’s celebrate them. If they make mistakes, let’s highlight them. No one’s out to get Meghan,” she said.

But Hello magazine, which devotes a lot of its coverage to the royals, has taken a different stand.

Editor Thomas Whitaker calls the online negativity a “very sorry state of affairs.”

When Kensington Palace revealed it is spending hours every week trying to delete the harsh messages, Hello started #HelloToKindness.

“Think, would you say that in public?” said Whitaker. “And if you wouldn’t say it in public, don’t write it hiding behind your computer screen.”

The campaign has drawn support from some big names, including Sarah Ferguson, Duchess of York.

In an open letter, she wrote that social media has become a “sewer” and that people also tried to portray her and Diana as rivals, although they never really felt that way. The letter prompted more online trolling.

‘Very sorry state of affairs’

Hello is also unapologetically refusing to report any negative stories about Meghan’s family.

“When we heard that it was upsetting to the Duchess of Sussex, we took an editorial judgment, as we are allowed to do, not to report any of it. We stand by this decision,” said Whitaker.

While there is a lot of online abuse, there are also Meghan supporters, Joyce points out.

They have a hashtag too. They’re the #Megulators.

“A lot of people are really supportive of Meghan, so it’s not that, you know, the trolls are really winning,” she said. “But at the same time, just looking at the kind of hatred around it is quite depressing really.”