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Who is Jeff Rayner? Photographer who staged Thomas Markle's paparazzi shots sues TV channel over interview

Jeff Rayner took a series of staged photos of Thomas Markle Sr that were reportedly sold for over $130,000
The photographs led to the breakdown of Thomas Markle's relationship with daughter Meghan Markle (Photo by 
@thevoodoocow/Twitter Joshua Sammer/Getty Images)
The photographs led to the breakdown of Thomas Markle's relationship with daughter Meghan Markle (Photo by @thevoodoocow/Twitter Joshua Sammer/Getty Images)

LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA: Australia's Channel Seven is being sued over an 'unfiltered' interview with Meghan Markle's estranged father Thomas on their breakfast program 'Sunrise'. Jeff Rayner, a Los Angeles-based photographer who posted images of Markle only days before her wedding to Prince Harry is suing the network in Australia's Federal Court.

In the lead-up to the royal wedding in 2018, Rayner, a paparazzi and co-owner of photo agency Coleman-Rayner, took a series of staged photos of Markle Sr that were reportedly sold for over $130,000 and which led to the breakdown of his relationship with his daughter.

During the live TV interview in September 2021, Markle made many assertions about the paparazzi photographer, including that he was affiliated with Hollywood movie boss Harvey Weinstein. He alleged that Rayner took 'compromising' photos of Weinstein's victims in order to discourage them from suing the now-convicted sex criminal.


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Meghan, Duchess of Sussex visits One World Observatory on September 23, 2021 in New York City.
Meghan, Duchess of Sussex (Photo by Roy Rochlin/Getty Images)

The former Hollywood lighting director alleged in a transcript of the interview provided to the court that he was "set-up" by Rayner and a business associate. "The whole thing was a plan to actually mess up the wedding, I was just part of it," Markle alleged in the live interview. "Basically they went to my oldest daughter and convinced my oldest daughter to convince me to have photographs to clean up my image because the photographs before that were always making me look bad. I mean I'm tempted to sue him. If I fail in suing him I hope to see him someday with Weinstein because he was also shooting young women for Weinstein to make them look bad so they couldn't sue him for rape."

Rayner's suit alleges Markle implied he is a "dishonest management consultant who conned Mr Markle (by deceiving his daughter Samantha) into participating in a photographic shoot as part of a plan to disrupt the royal wedding of Meghan Markle." It also states that Thomas alleged that the photographer "conspired with Harvey Weinstein, a notorious rapist, to take compromising pictures of Harvey Weinstein's victims that could be used to discourage those women from suing Harvey Weinstein."

The suit said Channel Seven should have considered the 'reasonable possibility' that Meghan's estranged father would make defamatory remarks against Rayner. He claimed that the network failed to pre-record the interview and that Markle's words had harmed both his personal and professional image. Rayner, who has relatives in Australia, stated that the interview caused him pain, anguish, and shame, which harmed his personal and professional reputation. The day following the interview, Sunrise hosts David Koch and Natalie Barr issued an on-air apologies for Markle's "unfounded charges," which was also carried on the network's news website.

Tomas Markel (@thevoodoocow/Twitter)
Thomas Markel (@thevoodoocow/Twitter)

"On yesterday's program in a live interview Thomas Markle, not uncharacteristically, went a bit rogue and made some pretty wild and unfounded allegations against Jeff Rayner, an Los Angeles based photographer," Koch said. "Seven did not intend for such allegations to be broadcast and has subsequently removed them from all versions of the program," Barr continued. "We would like to apologise to those gentleman named by Mr Markle, that the allegations went to air."

Rayner, on the other hand, has called it "inadequate" and accused the hosts of delivering the 47-second apology in a "sarcastic and flippant" way.