Anyone who has ever visited New York City will be scratching their heads over Harry and Meghan’s claims about a car chase. The Duke and Duchess of Montecito have said paparazzi subjected them to a ‘relentless pursuit’ and ‘near catastrophic’ chase that lasted for ‘two hours’. In NYC? Where you famously can’t drive so much as a couple of blocks without getting stuck in traffic or held up by lights?
I’ve caught cabs in Manhattan many times. It’s an infuriating experience. You stop constantly, sometimes on every block, to let armies of pedestrians cross the street. Very often it makes more sense to get out and walk – you’ll get to your destination quicker. It is almost impossible to have a car chase in the thronged, clogged wonderful streets of New York City.
And yet according to H&M, that’s what happened. It was after the Ms Foundation’s Women of Vision awards gala on Tuesday night, which they attended with Meghan’s mum, Doria Ragland. They got into their car and apparently all hell broke loose. According to their statement, a ‘ring of highly aggressive paparazzi’ were in hot pursuit, resulting in ‘multiple near collisions’.
Okay. But we haven’t seen any footage of the incident yet. People film everything these days, for TikTok or whatever, especially in a buzzing, well-connected city like New York. Hell, if I’d been there and seen some screeching cars on the tail of a VIP vehicle, I’d have filmed it myself. And yet videos of the mayhem in NYC are so far notable by their absence.
Some accounts are less dramatic than Harry and Meghan’s heated story. At one point during the chase, they leapt from their security car into a yellow cab. The driver of that cab, Sukhcharn Singh, was asked about the ‘near catastrophic’ nature of the paps’ hounding of their royal highnesses. ‘Oh, I don’t think that’s true’, he said. ‘I think that’s all exaggerated… so don’t read too much into that, you know.’
Julian Phillips, deputy commissioner of the NYPD, also sounded pretty chilled about it all. Yes, the photographers made Harry and Meghan’s car journey ‘challenging’, he said, but they ‘arrived at their destination and there were no reported collisions, summonses, injuries or arrests’.
The contrast between Harry and Meghan’s statement and the comments of other people is striking. In H&M’s view, this was a perilous chase, like something out of the Fast & Furious franchise, with packs of paps sacrificing safety and decency to get a pic of these poor, bullied aristocrats. In other people’s it was a little chaotic here and there, but fine in the end. ‘It wasn’t like a car chase in a movie’, said Mr Singh. ‘It’s New York, it’s safe.’
New York City cab driver Sukhcharn Singh (photo: Alamy)
Harry and Meghan have had an issue with paps for a long time. Harry hates that paparazzi constantly pursued his mother, including on the night she died. These people behave like ‘a pack of dogs’, he once said, which I think is unnecessarily dehumanising language. In free countries with a free press, photographers must have the right to take pictures of public figures in public places, without being demonised for doing so. But Harry and Meghan’s tale about a relentless chase in NYC goes beyond pap-bashing.
For H&M, their truth is the truth. This is why Meghan speaks of ‘my truth’ – to indicate that her subjective interpretation of events carries the weight of truth itself. How she sees things appears to matter more than how things actually are. How she feels about the world counts for more than how the world really is. It seems narcissistic: my view is gospel and woe betide anyone who questions it.
Elisabeth Braw, writing in Foreign Policy, made a good point about the elevation of ‘Meghan’s truth’ above all other views. ‘My truth’ is to the left what ‘alternative facts’ were to Donald Trump, said Braw: ‘Both foreground personal beliefs ahead of indisputable fact.’ So perhaps H&M are behaving a little like Trumpists if they depict a kerfuffle in New York as a mad car chase.
Tom Bower, in his book Revenge: Meghan, Harry and the War Between the Windsors, says Meghan strongly believes we all have the right to ‘create our own truth about the world’. A Princess of Postmodernism, for whom proof matters less than interpretation. Is that what Harry and Meghan were doing in their statement about the Tuesday night craziness in NYC – creating their own truth about the world?
But truth still matters, no? Real, tangible, measurable truth; the provable stuff of life. The fallout from Harry and Meghan’s ‘car chase’ is about so much more than royal privacy, pap behaviour and celebrity spin – it seems to speak to the further entrenchment of moral relativism and the creeping victory of feeling over fact. I’m sorry, but no one, not even rich, privileged royals, has the right to augment reality so that it better accords with their own emotions.
NYPD has requested the footage from Prince Harry’s phone. They will review it and make their observations in due course.