(CNN) — Images of Meghan Markle’s dad at an internet cafe checking out a website featuring his soon-to-be royal daughter — which sparked an “awww” moment on social media last week — were allegedly staged, her half-sister told a British network Monday.
Thomas Markle has been the subject of many unflattering media reports in the British tabloids as his daughter Meghan prepares to marry Prince Harry on Saturday. So, Samantha Markle told ITV that she told their father to stage positive photos for the paparazzi to help improve his image.
“I said the world has no idea that you’re getting in shape and doing healthy things,” Samantha Markle said on ITV’s program, “Loose Women.”
“They don’t photograph you buying vegetables and pH water, they photograph you in as unflattering ways as they can. I said, ‘Really you need to show the world you are getting in shape and doing great, healthy things.’ So I suggested it.”
On Sunday, Britain’s The Mail published what it said was security camera footage showing Thomas Markle arriving at the internet cafe with a photographer.
Samantha Markle took full responsibility for arranging the photos, saying she was “entirely the culprit.” When asked if her father had been paid, she said didn’t think so but wasn’t sure.
“I do not believe so, that was not the motive — it was my suggestion,” she said. “I have no idea. But if he did, I am going to assume it was a pittance — they don’t pay that much. It really was so the world could see him doing the healthy things.”
Meghan Markle, 36, has captured international attention as she prepares to become the newest member Britain’s royal family.
The biracial American actress, like her fiance Prince Harry, is a child of divorce. Thomas Markle and her mother, Doria Ragland, met at a Hollywood studio in the late 1970s where he was working as as a lighting director and she was a temp.
Her parents split when Meghan was young, but she told Vanity Fair this year that they remain on good terms and even take vacations together as a family. Earlier this month, Kensington Palace announced that Thomas Markle was scheduled to walk Meghan down the aisle on her May 19 wedding to Prince Harry.
However, Thomas Markle reportedly told TMZ he would no longer attend the wedding to avoid embarrassing the royal family and his daughter, telling TMZ he thought the photos were “stupid and hammy.” The report also quotes Markle as saying that he was approached by the paparazzi to take the photos.
CNN has reached out to Thomas Markle for comment over phone and over email but has yet to receive an answer. When asked about the TMZ report, Kensington Palace declined to comment.
In her ITV interview Monday, Samantha Markle accused the media of taking advantage of Thomas Markle, noting that their father, who is 73 years old, is “a bit more fragile.”
“I feel that the media have unfairly preyed on him and he has really been admirable about laying low and not speaking out on certain things,” Markle told ITV. “I merely wanted him to be seen in a respectable light and that wasn’t being done.”
(©2018 Cable News Network, Inc., a Time Warner Company. All rights reserved. By Tricia Escobedo)