Rachel Riley has said that criticism of JK Rowling’s views on trans rights stems from her speaking out “against Jeremy Corbyn and antisemitism”.
The Countdown whiz, who has appeared on the show since 2009, was asked about the backlash Rowling has received during a new interview.
The Harry Potter author has been widely criticised in recent years for her controversial comments about transgender rights, which began in June 2020 when she called out the gender-inclusive term “people who menstruate”.
“I’m sure there used to be a word for those people,” Rowling wrote, adding: “Someone help me out. Wumben? Wimpund? Woomud?”
While there was a contingent of Twitter users who supported Rowling for her tweet, there were plenty – including numerous celebrities – who criticised her comment as “anti-trans” and “transphobic”, arguing that transgender, non-binary and non-gender conforming people can also menstruate.
However, according to Riley, people have used this as an opportunity to retroactively criticise the author due to her previous defence of the Jewish community.
She told The Times: “I think a lot of the attacks on JK Rowling are really because she spoke out for Jews and against Jeremy Corbyn and antisemitism.”
Praising the author’s philanthropy work, Riley added: “She has made a real difference to the world. And [just saying] this will get us both cancelled.”
In 2020, Corbyn expressed “regret” at the pain caused for the Jewish community after a watchdog ruling found that he failed to act to stamp out antisemitism within the labour party.
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He was suspended by his party in October 2020 after he said the issue of antisemitism had been “dramatically overstated for political reasons” by opponents and the media. He later apologised for “belittling concerns” into a report by the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC).
Riley was recently awarded £10,000 in damages by a High Court judge after suing Laura Murray, a former aide to Corbyn, for libel.
She claimed that Murray harmed her reputation, and led to a concerted campaign to get her fired from Countdown.
Riley added hat she had received “a great deal of abuse” after commenting on the news about Corbyn getting hit by eggs thrown by a Brexit supporter while visiting a mosque in Finsbury Park in March 2019.
Riley had shared a screenshot of an unrelated tweet sent by Guardian columnist Owen Jones, reading: “I think sound life advice is, if you don’t want eggs thrown at you, don’t be a Nazi.”
In response, Murray wrote: “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 later said she was being “sarcastic”, adding in a statement: “The response to the defendant’s libel of me was a concerted attack on me and my career. My career is in the public domain. A concerted campaign was initiated to get me fired from my job, as being someone who had advocated violence.”
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