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On Tuesday, the Countdown presenter published a tweet alongside an image of herself wearing a t-shirt adorned with a widely-publicised photo of Jeremy Corbyn being arrested whilst protesting South African apartheid in 1984.
However, in the image on Riley’s t-shirt, the message on Mr Corbyn’s placard – which previously read “Defend the right to protest against apartheid. Join this picket” – had been replaced with:
“Jeremy Corbyn is a racist endeavour”
Riley has been a controversial and highly vocal critic of the Labour leader amid claims of anti-semitism within the Party, but many – including some of her own supporters – felt her latest stunt was completely unacceptable.
Gary Spedding, who has also been a vocal campaigner against antisemitism, said that Riley’s t-shirt was “offensive” because “it erases a message against apartheid South Africa (which represents the systematic racial oppression of black South Africans)“, before adding in another tweet:
“erasure of an anti-apartheid message in order to convey the notion Corbyn is himself a racist is frankly ludicrous and in itself a racist act.“
Rachel Riley’s t-shirt is offensive. Not because it’s an attack on Corbyn. But because it erases a message against apartheid in South Africa (which represents the systematic racial oppression of black South Africans).
There are other ways to criticise corbyn than being racist.
— Gary Spedding (@GarySpedding) November 20, 2019
For quite a few people this will be less about what is trying to be said about Corbyn and more about the fact erasure of an anti-apartheid message in order to convey the notion Corbyn is himself a racist is frankly ludicrous and in itself a racist act.
— Gary Spedding (@GarySpedding) November 21, 2019
Whlist journalist Mike Williams said:
“Imagine having the confidence to smear Jeremy Corbyn as a racist, while simultaneously erasing apartheid history for your own twisted agenda. Rachel Riley, everyone.“
Imagine having the confidence to smear Jeremy Corbyn as a racist, while simultaneously erasing apartheid history for your own twisted agenda. Rachel Riley, everyone. pic.twitter.com/nrbKKVfV1D
— Mike P Williams (@Mike_P_Williams) November 21, 2019
And radio presenter Olan McGowan said:
“Rachel Riley has crossed a line here. She has just sent her campaign against anti-semitism up in smoke. I’ve given her the benefit of the doubt for so long. No more. This is outrageous. Corbyn protesting apartheid was honorable and brave. to have it undermined like this is vile.”
Rachel Riley has crossed a line here. She has just sent her campaign against anti-semitism up in smoke. I've given her the benefit of the doubt for so long. No more. This is outrageous. Corbyn protesting apartheid was honorable and brave. to have it undermined like this is vile. https://t.co/tVqRuMu2w1
— Olan McGowan (@OlanMcGowan) November 21, 2019
And the criticism of Riley’s latest actions kept coming, with some even calling for Channel Four to review their association with the Countdown presenter:
As a former MP under Nelson Mandela, as the son of a Holocaust survivor who lost 39 members of her family in the camps, as a Sth African anti-racist, I find what Rachel Riley has done offensive, appalling & deeply repugnant. (Cud someone who she hasn’t blocked plse pass this on) https://t.co/ioC8UFdlfd
— Andrew Feinstein (@andrewfeinstein) November 21, 2019
Rachel Riley needs to be cancelled. YOU DO NOT treat apartheid as joke to make a statement. I don’t care who is holding the placard or what statement she thinks she is making here. #Blacktwitter we need to sort this out.
— Chardine Taylor Stone (@misschazmatazz) November 21, 2019
Rachel Riley is a poor representative for your channel, particularly during a period of supposed election neutrality.
Perhaps you could have a word before the electoral commission has to get involved? pic.twitter.com/ZI3XvET7Zh
— (((Fifthcolumnblue))) (@Fifthcolumnblue) November 21, 2019
To have that much contempt for the victims of apartheid is truly reprehensible. #rachelriley
— John Smith (son of Harry Leslie Smith) (@Harryslaststand) November 21, 2019
Did my girl actually erase the anti-apartheid message to do this??
I. Can. Friggin. NOT. pic.twitter.com/w3Zv9lF1SD
— Lara 'Challah Black Girl' M (@BlewishAnd) November 20, 2019
Rachel Riley must've faked that maths degree because being anti-racist and erasing black struggles don't add up…
— Bobby // Vote Labour (@Bobby19_) November 21, 2019
The Countdown presenter was also photographed wearing the highly controversial t-shirt after leaving the ITV studios in Salford following Tuesday’s televised leaders’ debate between Mr Corbyn and Boris Johnson.
Channel Four have not yet commented on Ms Riley’s actions.