Rachel Riley says she's 'sorry' after tweet suggesting Sydney attack was Islamic extremism

Countdown star is facing calls to be sacked by Channel 4

Jacob Stolworthy
Monday 15 April 2024 22:44 BST
Rachel Riley calls Twitter ‘cesspit of hate’ in response to ‘unpleasant’ social media comments

Rachel Riley has said she is “sorry” after posting a tweet appearing to link the Sydney attack to Islamic extremism.

The Countdown star, who once called social media a “cesspit of hate”, is facing calls to be sacked by Channel 4 after falsely suggesting the fatal incident was linked to a rise in support for Palestine.

Six people were killed in the attack, which police said was carried out by Joel Cauchi of Queensland. After news of the stabbing surfaced, Riley wrote: “For six months now, people have been out on our streets proudly calling for the ‘Intifada Revolution’. If you want to know what ‘Globalised Intifada’ looks like, see the Sydney Mall.”

She added: “Five victims stabbed to death and eight transferred to hospital, including a baby, due to one man and a knife.

“In the second intifada over 1,000 Israelis were murdered in restaurants, on buses and in the streets by suicide bombings, stabbings, stoning, lynching, shooting rockets. The youngest victim was just nine hours old.

“Sydney mall, multiple times over is what they’ve been proudly calling for.’

Riley’s post has been heavily accused of perpetuating Islamophobia, and on Sunday (14 April), the TV star issued what she described as a “clarification” of her comments.

“Just to clarify, my intention with this tweet was not to say this attack was caused by any ideation or to link it to Islamic extremism,” she said, adding: “At the time we did not know who the attacker was, and as such I made no reference.”

Referencing the marches calling for a ceasefire in Gaza, Riley said: “My aim was to highlight the weekly calls for ‘intifada’ being tolerated in London and around the world, which in actuality means violence on our streets.

“For six months now, I have avoided taking the tube, or going with my kids to anywhere near the marches each Saturday, and each week we see the extremist chants on proud display with little outcry.

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Rachel Riley posted about the Sydney attack on Twitter (Tim P. Whitby/Getty Images)

“Sadly, the type of attack seen in Sydney yesterday is exactly the kind of violence the previous intifada involved and I hope to avoid in future, but in my opinion ignoring the problem won’t make it go away.”

She continued: “Attacks on Jews have recently become repackaged as ‘resistance’ in some circles, and we should in one voice condemn all acts of violence, whoever the perpetrators and whoever the victims. I am sorry if this message was misunderstood, that was not my intention.”

In a follow-up post, Riley, who deleted the original post, apologised “to those I offended”, writing: “My post was ambiguous and although it was genuinely designed to call out calls for violence, it wasn’t the right place or time which made it easier to misinterpret, and I apologise.

“I know nuance isn’t popular online, and even though I’m certain many of the people calling this out are the same people who’ve been trying to shut me up or have me fired for the last six years, who would happily join in the calls for violence against their enemies, I’m also sure there are those who don’t fall into that camp, and it is to them I write this now.”

She added: “I too have been subject to assault in recent months and it was a Muslim woman and her husband who came to see if I was ok afterwards. I’m grateful to them and wish to undo any offence caused to the community.”

Riley has said she is ‘sorry’ if her post was ‘misunderstood’ (X/Twitter)

After Riley’s initial tweet, many urged Channel 4 to take action against the TV personality.

“She should be sacked now for her hate inciting islamophobic tweets designed to inflame racial tensions,” one person wrote, with anothert adding: “In a previous, more civilised decade, Rachel Riley would be sacked by her employer for Islamophobia.”

Elsewhere, on social media user wrote: “Rachel Riley needs to resign or be sacked. Her comments were & remain unacceptable “

A Channel 4 spokesperson said: “We have reminded Rachel of her obligations as a contributor to Channel 4 programming.” The Independent has contacted the channel for additional comment.

NSW Police identified the Sydney mall attacker as Cauchi, and his family have described his actions as “truly horrific”.

It has since emerged that he had attempted to join gun groups and had made a “weird” request to have his knives sharpened.

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