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Laurence Fox tried to ‘whip up mob of bigots’, Drag Race star tells High Court

The actor and politician is being sued by two men he referred to as ‘paedophiles’ on social media.

Jess Glass
Thursday 23 November 2023 16:58 GMT
Laurence Fox (PA)
Laurence Fox (PA) (PA Wire)

Laurence Fox tried to “whip up a mob of bigots” with tweets calling two gay men “paedophiles”, a Drag Race UK star has told the High Court.

The actor and politician is being sued by drag artist Crystal and former Stonewall trustee Simon Blake for libel over a row on Twitter, now known as X, in October 2020.

Mr Fox used the term against Mr Blake and the former RuPaul’s Drag Race UK contestant, whose real name is Colin Seymour, in an exchange about a decision by Sainsbury’s to celebrate Black History Month and provide a safe space for black employees.

After Mr Fox called for a boycott of the supermarket, the actor was called “a racist” by the pair and actress Nicola Thorp in their own posts on the platform.

The Reclaim Party founder, who denies being a racist, is counter-suing the trio for libel over their tweets.

On the second day of the trial on Thursday, Mr Seymour entered the witness box in the London court.

In his written evidence for the case, the Canadian artist said he had faced “overwhelming and distressing” abuse after Mr Fox’s tweet and that he feels less safe as a drag artist.

He said: “My reputation is important to me, both in my personal and in my professional life.

“I did and still do worry about the impact Mr Fox’s tweet could have on me financially if people connect me, in my drag persona, with paedophilia.”

Mr Seymour claimed Mr Fox “deliberately” chose to call him a paedophile due to its “homophobic connotations”.

He continued: “This makes it a particularly vicious attack and one that is more likely to stick.”

“On reading that he had called another gay man, Simon Blake, a paedophile, I felt Mr Fox was attempting to whip up a mob of bigots against us by using lies he knew would incense people,” Mr Seymour added.

Mr Blake, who is now chief executive of Mental Health First Aid England, also gave evidence on Thursday, telling the court the incorrect suggestion that gay men are paedophiles is “a trope as old as the hills”.

Patrick Green KC, for Mr Fox, suggested that some of the tweets and messages Mr Seymour had sent after showed he was not very upset about the actor’s tweet.

The court heard Mr Seymour had quoted one of Mr Fox’s tweets with the caption: “Now adding homophobic, boring and lazy to your list of adjectives. What a sad little life Jane.”

Mr Green asked: “Can you please explain to her ladyship what the phrase ‘what a sad little life Jane’ means?”

Mr Seymour told Mrs Justice Collins Rice that the phrase came from the TV show Come Dine With Me, adding: “It’s a way of expressing derision while using a bit of humour.”

Mr Green later suggested: “It’s fair to say, isn’t it, that you were understandably angry and upset that Mr Fox had said what he had said but you weren’t unduly distressed by it.”

The performer replied: “The truth is I was distressed and there are messages demonstrating that… It was upsetting, it was overwhelming and I received a lot of abuse that night and I continued to receive abuse ever since.”

During his afternoon of evidence, Mr Seymour was asked about his time on the BBC drag contest hosted by RuPaul, to which he replied: “It was a mixed bag, it was very stressful, exciting, difficult… it was a pressure cooker…a bit like this in a way, I’m afraid.”

In his written evidence, the performer said he felt “incredulous” about Mr Fox’s initial tweet calling for a boycott of Sainsbury’s.

Mr Seymour said: “I thought then, and think now, that what Mr Fox said in that tweet showed that he is a racist.

“I think Mr Fox continues to do and say many, many things that mean he is racist in my opinion.”

Mr Fox is defending the claim against him, with his lawyers arguing that “none of the claimants has suffered any real harm to their reputations” as a result of his tweets.

Addressing some of the abuse Mr Seymour had faced online using the word “paedophile”, Mr Green said in written submissions: “It is entirely clear that this has nothing to do with Mr Fox’s tweets.”

However, the barrister added that there is “little doubt that Mr Fox’s reputation has actually suffered very considerably” since October 2020, particularly in the mind of his former acting agent Sue Latimer, who parted ways with Mr Fox.

Mr Green continued: “The allegation of being ‘a racist’ will have been looked upon very seriously by many of Mr Fox’s actual and potential colleagues… He is not a racist, he is a colour-blind liberal who dislikes racism, ‘progressive’ and identitarian politics.”

The court previously heard Mr Fox experienced a “significant decline” in the number and quality of roles he was offered as an actor in the aftermath of the Twitter “spat”.

The trial before Mrs Justice Collins Rice is due to conclude next week with a decision expected at a later date.

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