'Where is Kate?': US reaction to royal story is 'extraordinary'

By John Mercury March 20, 2024

The Princess of Wales’s doctored family photograph has been the subject of intense scrutiny and speculation in the UK since it was posted on the royal’s Instagram on Mother’s Day.

The photo aimed to quell speculation about Kate’s health since she spent a short period in hospital in January for abdominal surgery, shortly after her 42nd birthday.

The princess has since been filmed smiling and looking happy while out shopping with her husband Prince William, but The Sun’s footage came after the edited image prompted far-fetched conspiracy theories – not just here but in the United States as well.

Sky News analysis shows the number of mentions in the US of “Kate Middleton” on Facebook and Instagram on the day before the photo was released (9 March) was about 2,600. The day after her photo was released, 11 March, there were more than 128,000 mentions.

Celebrities have been posting about the royals, and the ripple effect has even been felt at the White House.

Here’s how the story has been talked about across the pond.

James Matthews, Sky News US correspondent, says:

It’s extraordinary. Like, extraordinary.

In the United States, ‘KateGate’ is a powerful drug to the influencer generation falling over itself in “EMERGENCY EPISODES” of nudge-wink YouTube specials on what happened, where is she and I wonder what Meghan Markle’s saying about it.

In a land that loves a conspiracy theory, like and subscribe for the one with Kate riding Shergar, chasing Lord Lucan through the forests of Narnia etc, etc.

It’s okay to Photoshop now, after all.

“There’s a non-zero chance she died 18 months ago,” cracked comedian John Oliver on @BravoWWHL.

‘Where’s Kate,’ is the question on this side of the Atlantic – all the talk, on-screen and on the street.

Being a Brit in the nation’s capital, Washington DC, is to carry a weight of responsibility for the whole thing.

Americans demand the inside track from us – as if, with this soap opera, we’re several episodes ahead.

In my need-to-know neighbourhood, one resident stopped me to ask last week, the same one who had offered sympathy when King Charles was diagnosed with cancer.

Why didn’t I just call and ask, was the tone.

In the city of Watergate, one of my US journalist colleagues sidled up at lunch, sideways on so that it felt a bit Woodward and Bernstein.

“What about Kate, though?” he whispered.

“I couldn’t tell you, sorry,”

He nodded, polite but reeking of disappointment.

Another one let down and it felt, suddenly, a bit Woodbine and Beerstain.

Kim K’s ‘finding Kate’ post

Kim Kardashian is never slow to a trend.

The reality TV star and businesswoman appeared to reference the royal in an Instagram photo drop of her own.

“On my way to go find Kate,” the 43-year-old wrote in the caption of nine images of herself wearing the same outfit – albeit doing various poses.

Fellow US celebrity Blake Lively also appeared to make light of the situation, posting an Instagram photo where her head was superimposed onto the body of another woman.

The actress, who was promoting new drinks from her company Betty Buzz, started the image’s caption saying: “I’m so excited to share this new photo I just took today to announce our 4 new @bettybuzz & @bettybooze products!

“Now you know why I’ve been MIA [missing in action].”

The post – a nod to the royal situation – received mixed responses in the comments, as did Kardashian’s, with some suggesting the pair were “mocking” the royal while she was unwell.

Talk show discussions

A number of US talk shows have also dedicated segments in their shows to discuss the royals.

On The Late Show with Stephen Colbert, the host ended a monologue by showing a much more obviously doctored photo of the Princess of Wales, and saying: “To put the scandal to rest, the palace has released the original photo, which was Kate skateboarding over a tiger.”

Similarly, the satirical news programme The Daily Show did a six-minute segment on the situation, in which comedian and “senior correspondent” Michael Kosta said: “I didn’t even know or care about Kate Middleton’s leave of absence, but then you release a photo so edited they have to issue a kill order? Well, now I’m all in.”

In one of the segment’s tamer remarks, he added: “You didn’t need to do forensic analysis to know the photo’s a fake… there’s three kids smiling at the same time. As a parent, I know that’s impossible.”

Read more:
Image of late Queen was ‘digitally enhanced at source’
What the data says about edited photo
Why doctored image is particularly troubling – Boulton

The View host Whoopi Goldberg took a more serious approach, suggesting conspiracy theories in the aftermath of the photo were not kind.

“When you buy into this stuff, when they start doing it to your family or they start doing it to your kids, it’s not cute,” she said. “It’s not fun. It really irritates me.”

Admitting she was speculating, she then weighed in on why she thought the princess had edited the image.

She said: “I think Kate took a picture and said ‘Oh, his lips look wrong, her butt looks wrong, this looks wrong, let me fix it.’

“I believe that she took the picture and gave it to [the palace] because she wanted to take charge of the story that’s being put out.”

Two of Goldberg’s fellow co-hosts, Sara Haines and Alyssa Farah Griffin, said the princess could “resolve” the issue by releasing a video where she speaks to camera and tells viewers “I’m okay.”

“Now you have a princess, a queen in waiting, that hasn’t been seen. She could resolve this, the Palace could, in two minutes by putting her direct to camera,” Griffin said.

The White House gets dragged into it – twice

White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre looked perplexed when she was quizzed last week about whether photos of President Joe Biden were ever altered before being sent out.

Other journalists laughed at the question as Ms Jean-Pierre responded by saying: “Digitally altered? Not that I know of. I would say no.

“Why would we digitally alter the photos? Are you talking about… are you comparing us to what’s going on in the UK?”

She laughed as the reporter said he was “doing his due diligence”, and rhetorically asked why the royal had “anything to do with us” before adding: “No, that is not something that we do here.”

A day later, when asked if President Biden had received any intel regarding the princess’s health, Ms Jean-Pierre said: “I have not spoken to the president about Kate Middleton.

“She has asked for privacy. Her family has asked for privacy and we’re certainly going to respect that.”

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White House questioned over princess photo


The internet is always awash with conspiracies and speculation, and the Princess of Wales’s health is one of its most recent fixtures.

The royals, as well as celebrities and politicians, are regularly caught up in conspiracy theories on social platforms, but when leading news agencies took the step of issuing a kill notice on the altered Mother’s Day photo, it captured the imagination of theorists like never before.

Theories range from serious concern to the most bizarre – such as one idea that suggests she is in fact out of action due to appearing on The Masked Singer.

Some people talk about the photo in which she was seen leaving Windsor alongside Prince William in the back of a car.

The photo only shows the back of the Princess of Wales’s head but this was enough for conspiracy theorists to believe an old image of the royal was superimposed onto this one.

But as Sky News royal correspondent Rhiannon Mills put it, this “isn’t just about rogue conspiracy theories”.

“It has to be taken seriously when there are questions about trust and transparency,” she wrote.

She adds: “Of course some will argue the alterations were probably small and what’s wrong with that?

“But it will mean an added spotlight and scrutiny on all pictures they now put out – not just the usual excitement that normally would come with every new release from Kensington Palace.”


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