British TV Presenter Rachel Riley Wins Libel Lawsuit Against Ex-Jeremy Corbyn Aide Over ‘Nazi’ Tweet
British-Jewish television presenter Rachel Riley won a libel lawsuit on Monday against a former staff member of the British Labour Party who accused her of allegedly calling ex-party leader Jeremy Corbyn a “Nazi.”
The Royal Courts of Justice in London awarded Riley, who co-hosts the British game show “Countdown,” 10,000 euros (a little more than $11,000) in damages, and Justice Nicklin ruled that she is “entitled” to “vindication” over a Twitter post by Laura Murray, 32.
After Corbyn was egged during his visit to a mosque in March 2019, Riley, 35, posted a screenshot of a tweet by Guardian journalist Owen Jones that said, “I think sound life advice is, if you don’t want eggs thrown at you, don’t be a Nazi.” She added to the message, “Good advice.”
Murray, who was the Labour party’s head of complaints when it was led by Corbyn, replied to Riley’s tweet saying, “You are publicly encouraging violent attacks against a man who is already a target for death threats. Please think for a second about what a dangerous and unhealthy role you are now choosing to play in public life.” Riley did not respond to the message.
Murray later tweeted: “Today Jeremy Corbyn went to his local mosque for Visit My Mosque Day, and was attacked by a Brexiteer. Rachel Riley tweets that Corbyn deserves to be violently attacked because he is a Nazi. This woman is as dangerous as she is stupid. Nobody should engage with her. Ever.”
Riley, who has been outspoken about antisemitism in the Labour party, told the court she received abusive messages on Twitter as a result of Murray’s tweet. In her witness statement for the trial, Riley said she was called a “stupid little girl,” “racist fat filth,” “vile,” “lying idiot” and “lying b—h” by hateful Twitter users. She added that she was being sarcastic in her tweet and did not call Corbyn a Nazi. She also told the judge that Murray’s tweet was harmful to her reputation, and Nicklin ruled in agreement with Riley.
Riley claimed Murray was “dog whistling” her Twitter followers to “pile on” hateful messages targeting the “Countdown” host.
She previously told the High Court, “The allegations in the tweet have made me feel vulnerable to physical attack, which is naturally very worrying. The volume of abusive and threatening messages was all-consuming. I found it hard to focus on my work and suffered sleepless nights. Even now, the abuse has gone unchecked and my reputation is not vindicated.”
Murray told the court she believes Riley was being “deliberately provocative” with her tweet on the day that Corbyn got egged.
She denied defaming Riley and argued that her Twitter post reflected the truth and her honest opinion. She said, “The purpose of my tweet was to advise people, as many as would listen, ‘don’t engage with this,’ ‘it’s a waste of time,’ ‘no one gets anything from it,’ ‘it’s a huge waste of emotional resources.’ I could see this was really counter-productive. It’s just totally useless.”
Riley said in a Twitter post on Monday that she is “extremely pleased” with the outcome of the case.
“This has been a very draining process and I’m relieved to finally have vindication,” she wrote. “It never needed to come to this, but I’m grateful to have had an outlet to set the record straight. This is the culmination of several tough years for many Jewish people and allies. I hope this serves as a reminder you can’t defame people without consequence, even on Twitter.”