Countdown star Rachel Riley in court battle over ex-Corbyn aide’s ‘dangerous’ tweet

Countdown star Rachel Riley has told the High Court she was worried about her job security after a tweet by an aide to ex-Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn.

The TV presenter, 35, told Mr Justice Nicklin that Laura Murray’s post “incited” hate and caused people to try and get her sacked.

The message described the numbers expert as “dangerous” and “stupid”.

Ms Riley, who has brought libel proceedings against Ms Murray and is seeking damages, said the tweet caused “serious harm” to her reputation, adding she had taken steps to improve “personal and home security”.

Ms Riley said the 2019 tweet had her fearing for the security and longevity of her job
Image: Ms Riley, pictured arriving at court on Monday, said the 2019 tweet had her fearing for the security and longevity of her job

Ms Murray, who no longer works as Mr Corbyn’s aide, posted a tweet on 3 March 2019 after an egg was thrown at Mr Corbyn by a Brexit supporter when he was visiting Finsbury Park Mosque in north London.

She was responding to a tweet posted by Ms Riley, the judge heard.

Ms Riley had posted a screenshot of a January 2019 tweet by Guardian columnist Owen Jones, about an attack on former British National Party leader Nick Griffin, which said: “I think sound life advice is, if you don’t want eggs thrown at you, don’t be a Nazi.”

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She had added “Good advice”, with emojis of a red rose and an egg.

Later, Ms Murray 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.”

Ms Murray said in her defence that what she tweeted was true and reflected her honestly held opinion.

In April 2020, Mr Justice Nicklin ruled that Ms Murray’s tweet was defamatory.

The judge concluded that the tweet meant that: Ms Riley had “publicly stated” Mr Corbyn had been attacked when visiting a mosque; that he “deserved to be violently attacked”; by doing so, she had shown herself to be a “dangerous and stupid person” who “risked inciting unlawful violence”; and that people should not “engage with her”.

He has now been asked to consider whether serious harm was caused to Ms Riley’s reputation and whether Ms Murray had a defence of truth, honest opinion or public interest.

During the first day of the hearing on Monday at the Royal Courts of Justice, Ms Riley said her agent arranged a meeting with Channel 4’s programming head, David Sayer, where she had to explain Ms Murray had “misrepresented” what she had written in an earlier tweet.

Ms Riley, who studied mathematics at Oxford University, told the judge she was Jewish and had a “hatred of anti-Semitism”.

She said she spoke out against anti-Semitism and thought the Corbyn-led Labour Party was “fostering anti-Semitism”.

Laura Murray tweeted that Ms Riley is "dangerous" and stupid"
Image: Laura Murray, pictured arriving at court on Monday, tweeted that Ms Riley is ‘dangerous’ and ‘stupid’

Ms Riley said she was being sarcastic in her tweet and had not called Mr Corbyn a Nazi.

She said the response to Ms Murray’s “libel of me” was a “concerted attack”.

The TV presenter said a campaign had been initiated to “get me fired”, as being “someone who had advocated violence”, adding she had received “a great deal of abuse” and “most of it” was caused by Ms Murray’s tweet.

“It is very upsetting to see how the… tweet incited such hate towards me and caused people to try to get me sacked from my job,” she said in a written witness statement.

Ms Riley added that Channel 4 “accepted” her explanation but “this experience still made me feel vulnerable and worried about the security and longevity of my job”.

The trial is expected to last until Wednesday and Ms Murray is due to give evidence on Tuesday.

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