Piers Morgan’s week has either been very good or a raging dumpster fire, depending on your perspective.
In the last few days alone, the Good Morning Britain co-host’s encounters with Donald Trump, Ash Sakar and Steve Bannon have – for various reasons – sparked outrage and kept him more than a little busy on social media. But now, more than ever before, there’s growing scrutiny too for his colleague.
Susanna Reid is one of the founding presenters of ITV’s breakfast show: she moved over from the BBC to help launch it in 2014 and has been sitting alongside Morgan a few days a week since he was added to the line-up in late 2016. It’s generally been accepted since day one that while he’s a provocative, bull-to-a-red-rag motormouth, she is the calmer, more conventionally ~professional voice of reason; either calmly trying to get a word in edgeways or just looking perpetually exasperated.
But as the rage against Morgan grows more and more frequent, and Good Morning Britain’s bookings become increasingly controversial, Reid is picking up much more flack herself. Whether the controversy of the day is her co-star’s approach to a so-called “debate” or just the fact that controversial far-right guests are given a platform in the first place, an increasingly prominent argument is that Reid, as a respected journalist, shouldn’t be part of such a circus.
I tweeted last week, after Morgan butted heads with Sakar, that Reid is “not responsible” for what he does, and I was interested to read responses claiming she is “complicit”. One friend of mine said she “[takes] a paycheck from a show that promotes and profits from his vile hatred”, while others I’ve seen on my timeline believe that, as the face of a show that does polarising and occasionally irresponsible things with its airtime, she should be held accountable too.
Are older British women putting enough effort into their looks?
— Good Morning Britain (@GMB) June 11, 2018
It’s a view that is becoming more common. Today, as Morgan’s interview with POTUS generated headlines, she tweeted: “Getting hit from left and right. Criticised for being too opinionated…and too quiet. Accused of being a snowflake and a c—. Too liberal … too enabling, ‘good-looking, but…’
“Half my critics think I should leave MY paid employment because THEY take issue with the person sitting next to me. The other half think I should leave, BECAUSE I take issue with the person sitting next to me. I’m staying right where I am.” When she says “critics”, she means not only people firmly but respectfully telling her she’s part of the problem, but outright trolls calling her things like “a intelligently [sic] challenged leftie dick”, a “virtue signalling cunt” and “a bigot and an idiot”.
Full disclosure, I don’t watch GMB anymore. I’ll watch the odd clip online if something goes viral; but the kinds of “debates” they do, their endlessly problematic coverage of gender, and the sheer volume of Morgan have turned me off. Now when I’m getting ready in the morning it’s to the gentle background noise of BBC Breakfast, because as Reid herself said when comparing the two, “I don’t think everybody necessarily wants a double espresso shot into their veins in the morning. Some people want a nice cup of tea.”
But from clips I have seen, she does play a vital role, and I do think she’s very good at her job. She may not approach things like a runaway steamroller, as Morgan does, but like a great journalist she challenges her interviewees and, more often than not, holds them to account. Lest we forget that it was her who famously got the post-referendum soundbite of Nigel Farage distancing himself from that infernal “NHS bus”; and as for Bannon, while I disagree with her view that it was a good idea to have him on the show at all, once he was there she conducted the Q&A very well – recalling on social media afterwards that “he accused me of insulting questioning and being part of the liberal elite”. I don’t like GMB anymore but that’s not something I’ll pin on Reid – in fact she’s one of the few good things still going for it.
As for the argument that, regardless of her on-screen conduct, she’s problematic just for staying in the job, I would highlight the fact that GMB isn’t going anywhere, whether she’s part of it or not. Despite the never-ending cycle of outrage, ratings are on the rise, and last week it allegedly hit its highest audience share since launch. Imagine if she were to leave, and all viewers would get would be Morgan unleashed? Would that be more or less problematic? Far more, in my view. There are times when it’s frustrating to see Morgan getting away with spewing nonsense unchecked, but in fairness she calls him out much more frequently than others would, including other members of the on-air GMB team.
The debate around the ethics of GMB – and actually the mainstream media as a whole – is a fascinating one, but Reid is an accomplished broadcaster who has been working for over 30 years in a male-dominated industry to get to where she is; and while it’s true that the show has become much more frustratingly incendiary in recent years, it’s time to stop holding her accountable for the messes made by the person next to her.