Piers Morgan attempts to give the impression of grilling the disgraced president of the Spanish football federation Luis Rubiales, except he’s not, not really. It is performative, it is all performative. The broadcaster’s continued pushing towards the end of his one-hour Piers Morgan Uncensored interview for a reason as to why the resigning president says it was inappropriate for him to kiss Jenni Hermoso, following Spain’s win at the Women’s World Cup, but will not apologise to the player for his actions is all part of the show, an attempt to give the illusion of good journalism.
Except we know Morgan, we know where he stands on what he perceives as wokeism, we know where he stands on women. He described “cancel culture” as “the new fascism” after his Good Morning Britain exit, has continued to axe-grind against Meghan Markle and called those taking part in the Women’s March on Washington after the inauguration of Donald Trump “rabid feminists” – to name a few examples.
Rubiales did not give Morgan a worldwide exclusive interview because he wanted to clear his name by being put under the microscope by the fiercest of critics; he did so because Morgan would allow him the space to say what he wanted.
You can see it in the setup alone, it’s stripped back, no furniture, it screams there is nowhere to hide, literally. All that is there is an obscured view of London and two men sitting opposite each other talking. And Morgan is a sympathetic party, his criticism is balanced with a sickening gentleness.
“I can see the impact this has had on you, it’s a difficult thing to be accused of what you’ve been accused of,” he says at one point. At another, despite saying previously that Rubiales can’t play the victim, he gives him the chance to do just that, asking about the impact on his daughters and the mother who locked herself in a church and went on hunger strike in protest at the perceived witch hunt against her son. “I bought her the ice-cream that she loves, spent a bit of time with her, I was very worried for her,” says Rubiales.
Hermoso stays silent, likely struggling to navigate the intensity of numerous investigations and huge public interest, and likely fearful of a man and federation that seemingly wants to litigiously pursue her to establish his case. Meanwhile Rubiales, perpetrator of the kiss, crotch grab in front of the Spanish royal family and overly familiar approach with other players that the world saw live, is given a platform to attempt to twist the narrative around what we all saw.
Except he won’t speak to the details, he can’t legally, so instead he is able to speak broadly, to not launch a defence, but instead try to demonstrate his good character.
The interview is “an opportunity”, he says. “There’s a lot of opinion, a lot of people, a million people follow you. And I think that a lot of people, millions of people, have an opinion about me, about what happened. For me, like I tell you, it’s an opportunity to tell the world what really happened. To get that through to the rest of the people.”
Except “what really happened” is what we all saw live on TV and that was Rubiales assaulting a player in her workplace. All the interview with Morgan shows is that he still cannot grasp that. “My intentions were noble, enthusiastic, 100% non-sexual, 100%, I repeat, 100%,” he says. “It was a mutual act, she came towards me, very happy. We were both emotional,” he says at another point.
Except these are all irrelevant straw-man arguments. It doesn’t matter whether there was sexual desire there or not, it doesn’t matter, ultimately, whether it was consensual or not, it shouldn’t have happened.
What Morgan does in his weak line of questioning is reduce the decision of Rubiales’s resignation to the one incident. There are no questions about the letter signed by 15 players last year expressing their frustrations at the impact of their environment around the national team on their health. There are no questions about the players that announced they would not play for Spain at the World Cup. There was no connecting of these issues to what took place after the final or asking whether his actions were symptomatic of the environment the players for the Spanish women’s national team have repeatedly complained about for close to a decade.
These omissions allow the kiss and his admittance that it was wrong to be viewed by the public in isolation. Remove the context of the players’ complaints, of the macho culture of Spanish football and Spanish society – that is prevalent and embedded in capitalist society worldwide – from the discussion and you reduce the understanding why the reaction has been so, rightly, strong and, appalling, allow Rubiales to appear reasonable.