Was Meghan Markle and Prince Harry’s two-hour paparazzi chase as dangerous as they made it seem? Not the way these New Yorkers tell it…
As we’ve been reporting, the Duke and Duchess of Sussex attended the Ms. Foundation’s Women of Vision Awards at the Ziegfeld Ballroom in Manhattan with the 41-year-old’s mother Doria Ragland on Tuesday night. However, their night took a scary turn when they left the event and were chased by paparazzi. A spokesperson for Meghan and Harry revealed that the trio was “involved in a near catastrophic car chase at the hands of a ring of highly aggressive paparazzi.” Whoa.
Law enforcement sources told Deadline that Meghan and Harry were on their way to a friend’s home and spotted the photographers following them. To make sure they didn’t lead the paps to the residence, they drove around New York City before stopping the car to transfer Meghan and Doria into a taxi. The cab then took them to the police station. The NYPD confirmed that they assisted the couple’s security team — noting that their drive in the city was “challenging” due to the photographers:
“The NYPD assisted the private security team protecting the Duke and Duchess of Sussex. 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.”
However, law enforcement sources told Deadline the situation was “near catastrophic” — near being the operative word! Though no one was actually hurt, there reportedly were scooters and motorbikes closely following the car — and even driving onto sidewalks during the chase! If that’s true, this seems pretty dangerous indeed. Add the fact that this situation is reminiscent of Princess Diana’s deadly paparazzi chase, it must have been nerve-wracking and traumatic for the Prince Harry.
But now, people have come forward with their versions of the incident — and most seem to think the Sussexes may have exaggerated what happened… A LOT. As in, one is claiming their near-catastrophic chase didn’t even happen?! An unidentified duty officer at the NYPD’s 18th precinct — the closest to where the incident apparently began — told TheWrap on Wednesday:
“Nothing happened. It’s a bogus story. Don’t believe everything you read in the newspapers.”
What?! NOTHING happened? What about the NYPD statement?? This source didn’t provide any more details, nor was it clear he was even present for the action — so we’ll have to take this statement with a grain of salt for now. But he’s not the only one raising their eyebrow at Meghan and Harry’s story.
Taxi driver Sukhcharn Singh, who picked up Harry, Meghan, and her mom, opened up about his 10-minute car ride with the trio in an interview with The Washington Post on Wednesday. He recalled picking up Meghan and Harry with “an older Black woman and one security guard” around 11 p.m. on Tuesday outside of the NYPD 19th precinct on East 67th Street. Then, Sukhcharn said, he drove the four to Park Avenue before moving south, and they were soon followed by two cars:
“They kept following us and were coming next to the car. They took pictures as we stopped and were filming us.”
A few minutes into the chase, the 37-year-old cab driver said a security guard asked him to head back to the police station since they were worried about being too exposed to paparazzi at the time. He then took them back to the precinct. So they were being chased. That much is true.
Ultimately, however, Sukhcharn told The Washington Post he did not feel “in danger” at the time — but noticed that the group was worried:
“I don’t think I would call it a chase. I never felt like I was in danger. It wasn’t like a car chase in a movie. They were quiet and seemed scared but it’s New York – it’s safe.”
The driver further mentioned on Piers Morgan Uncensored that Meghan, Harry, Doria, and the security guard “seemed very nervous” the second he picked them up at the situation, adding:
“As we went a block, we were blocked by a trash truck, and then all of a sudden, paparazzi just came out of nowhere and flashes just went off.”
In comparison to other celebs who’ve entered his car, Sukhcharn noted that the paps “surrounded the car” and went “crazy with the camera.” Sounds like they definitely bombarded the couple, and worse than your average NYC celeb. We guess how scary it all was is kind of relative?
Meanwhile, a photographer at the scene of the incident insisted to People that it was “sensational” to call the chase “near catastrophic,” saying:
“Nobody got a ticket or arrested…I don’t see how it was near catastrophic other than crazy hyperbole.”
When they say photographer… do they mean one of the paps involved? Because that would hardly be an independent witness!
Another source added that it wasn’t unsafe because “they could have gone to a police station or pulled into a garage” at any time. They could have escaped is not a great argument either though. Just sayin’!
According to People, video footage of the situation showed an officer talking to a driver of an SUV — though they were unable to see who was inside the car. Sources told the outlet that before the video was recorded:
“Prince Harry and Meghan Markle’s driver gets pulled over after he was observed by NYPD swerving and almost hitting pedestrians while trying to evade the paparazzi.”
Whoa! So their driver was almost running into pedestrians? A member of Harry and Meghan’s security confirmed to CNN’s Max Foster that the public was potentially “in jeopardy” at times:
“What we were dealing with was very chaotic…The public were in jeopardy at several points. It could have been fatal.”
Scary. As for why Meghan and Harry were hounded by paparazzi that night in the first place? Why cause all of this unnecessary drama? Another source speculated they were looking to figure out where Meghan and Harry were staying in the city in order to follow them the next day. So they were right not to lead the photogs to their friend’s house?
However, the insider noted they didn’t need to take pictures of them once they captured the two entering and leaving the venue. Photo agency Backgrid USA Inc. has spoken out about their freelance photographers’ involvement in the situation, saying:
“At BACKGRID USA Inc., we value transparency and ethics in journalism, which include providing fair and factual responses to claims. We are aware of Prince Harry’s statement regarding an alleged ‘near catastrophic car chase’ involving himself, Meghan Markle, and her mother, in New York City on Tuesday night. We want to clarify that we have received photos and videos of last night’s events from four freelance photographers, three of whom were in cars and one of whom was riding a bicycle. It is important to note that these photographers have a professional responsibility to cover newsworthy events and personalities, including public figures such as Prince Harry and Meghan Markle.”
The outlet swore the paps never meant to cause “any distress or harm” — but notes they also never saw any “near-collisions or near-crashes” at the time:
“According to the accounts given by these freelance contributors, they were covering the couple’s stay in New York City, including the possibility of a dinner after an award ceremony. They had no intention of causing any distress or harm, as their only tool was their cameras. A few of the photos even show Meghan Markle smiling inside a cab.”
Backgrid’s statement concluded:
“The photographers report that one of the four SUVs from Prince Harry’s security escort was driving in a manner that could be perceived as reckless. The vehicle was seen blocking off streets, and in one video, it is shown being pulled over by the police. We understand that Prince Harry and Meghan Markle’s security detail had a job to do, and we respect their work. We do, however, want to point out that according to the photographers present, there were no near-collisions or near-crashes during this incident. The photographers have reported feeling that the couple was not in immediate danger at any point. At BACKGRID USA Inc., we do not condone any form of harassment or illegal activity. We are taking Prince Harry’s allegations seriously and will be conducting a thorough investigation into the matter.”
So they’re not saying there wasn’t a scary incident — they’re just blaming Harry and Meghan!
It’ll be inneresting to see what a deeper investigation reveals about what happened. But regardless, even if the chase wasn’t nearly as bad as the pair made it sound, that doesn’t mean Meghan and Harry weren’t terrified by the paps that night. It may well have been triggering for Harry given what happened with his mother years ago.
But what do you think, Perezcious readers? Were Meghan and Harry exaggerating? Sound OFF in the comments below.
[Image via MEGA/WENN]