Harry and Meghan Accused of Pulling 'Smollett-Style Hoax' After Police Dispute Car Chase Claim

Daniel Leal-Olivas/Pool Photo via AP

I try to pay as little attention as possible to the trials and tribulations of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle, but it has been impossible to ignore the story that broke Wednesday on what they alleged was a “near-catastrophic car chase” their spokesman says occurred Tuesday night after attending an awards ceremony in New York City, where Markle was given the Gloria Steinem-inspired “Ms. Foundation’s Women of Vision” award by Steinem herself.

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“Last night, The Duke and Duchess of Sussex and Ms. [Doria] Ragland [Markle’s mother] were involved in a near catastrophic car chase at the hands of a ring of highly aggressive paparazzi. This relentless pursuit, lasting over two hours, resulted in multiple near collisions involving other drivers on the road, pedestrians and two NYPD officers,” the statement read.

“While being a public figure comes with a level of interest from the public, it should never come at the cost of anyone’s safety. Dissemination of these images, given the ways in which they were obtained, encourages a highly intrusive practice that is dangerous to all in [sic] involved.”

The statement seemed odd to me, as the only time you typically hear of car chases that last that long in any city usually involve someone trying to escape being pulled over by the police, not celebrities trying to avoid having their pictures taken.

I wasn’t the only one who expressed skepticism over what was alleged to have happened.

“It’s not possible to have a ‘2-hour’ car chase in NYC, too many lights and traffic along with police stations everywhere,” NewsCycle president Jon Nicosia tweeted. “Literally hundreds of places they could have pulled into to get away from the cameras.

The DC Examiner’s Byron York openly wondered if anyone had “seen any photos from the ‘ring of highly aggressive paparazzi’ responsible for the ‘near catastrophic car chase’ with the Sussexes last night?”

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“You’d have to think a ‘ring of highly aggressive paparazzi’ would have a lot of cameras…” he also wrote.

While we’re still waiting on clear videos and images to come in, we are getting accounts from others involved in what the Duke and Duchess say happened – and what those “others,” including the NYPD and photographers, have to say about the matter is at serious odds with the version of events we heard about in the original statement:

Police sources described to ABC News a different version of events from the one described by Harry and Meghan’s spokesperson.

Two New York Police Department detectives were present at the Ziegfeld when Harry and Meghan emerged from the event and drove alongside the couple’s private vehicle to get them home.

Along the way, police sources said photographers on bicycles are visible on security cameras but not the kind of caravan described by sources close to Harry and Meghan.

The police interaction with the couple lasted no more than 20 minutes, according to police sources. If the episode lasted the two hours Meghan and Harry say it did, it was due to their own security wanting to avoid revealing where they were staying, not because they were being chased, the sources said.

According to the NYPD’s official statement, they “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.”

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The news agency involved with some of the photographers in question also pushed back on the claims made by the couple, alleging that in reality it was a member of Harry and Meghan’s security detail that was being reckless:

The photographers claimed that one of the four SUVs in Harry’s security escort “was driving in a manner that could be perceived as reckless,” including blocking off streets, according to Backgrid.

Claims from another photographer as well as video footage seem to back up what the NYPD and the celebrity news agency say:

A photographer on the scene tells PEOPLE that it is “sensational” to describe the pursuit as “near catastrophic.” “Nobody got a ticket or arrested…I don’t see how it was near catastrophic other than crazy hyperbole,” they say. A second source adds, “At any point, they could have gone to a police station or pulled into a garage.”

PEOPLE has viewed video footage of part of the incident, showing an NYPD cop talking to the driver of an SUV, which is stationary in the middle of the street. It is not possible to see who is in the vehicle, but the source alleges that, before the footage was taken, “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.” In addition to those allegations, the source says the driver was wearing a suit and driving an SUV and the Sussexes were not in a yellow taxi cab at this point.

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I would not want to be a celebrity and I definitely would not want to experience what it would be like to be a royal, either. Though both jobs come with “perks,” they are undoutedly hounded by the press on a constant basis and in some ways that are unquestionably invasive and inappropriate.

That being said, that Harry and Meghan would make such a sensationalistic claim even knowing, in this day and age, that it can likely be verified or refuted thanks not just to eyewitness accounts but also video cameras, which are pretty much everywhere now, is just astonishing to me. This is especially true, considering that Harry’s famous mother Princess Diana died in August 1997 after her driver, who was inebriated, drove at a high rate of speed, much higher than the legal speed limit, and crashed their vehicle in a Paris road tunnel as she and her companion were being followed by the paparazzi.

Some have accused Harry and Meghan of pulling a Jussie Smollett:

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It’s often amazed me that both of them have constantly talked about people needing to “respect our privacy,” and yet they’re the ones who can’t seem to stop talking about themselves and every facet of their lives.

I don’t want to think they put out a questionable statement like this on purpose but considering the information that is coming from other sources, it’s hard to view what Harry and Meghan said about it without a high-degree of suspicion.

I’ll leave it to readers to debate. Over to you guys and gals…

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