Laurence Fox is “an intelligent racist with an agenda”, the High Court has been told on the first day of his libel battle with two people he called paedophiles on social media.
The actor-turned-politician is being sued by former Stonewall trustee Simon Blake and drag artist Crystal over a row on Twitter, now known as X, in October 2020.
Mr Fox called Mr Blake and the former RuPaul’s Drag Race contestant, whose real name is Colin Seymour, “paedophiles” 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.
Faeces through the door
The Reclaim Party founder, who denies being a racist, is counter-suing the trio over their tweets, claiming they damaged his reputation.
Mr Fox has claimed he lost his acting agent in the aftermath and that on two occasions after the claim against him was filed, faeces were posted through his door.
All four people in the case appeared at the Royal Courts of Justice in London on Wednesday for the first day of the trial – which is expected to see Mr Fox enter the witness box on Friday.
Lorna Skinner KC, representing Mr Blake, Mr Seymour and Ms Thorp, said the trio “honestly believed, and continue honestly to believe, that Mr Fox is a racist”.
In written submissions, the barrister said the 45-year-old “has made a number of highly controversial statements about race”, adding: “If and to the extent that Mr Fox has been harmed in his reputation, it is his own conduct and not the claimants’ comments on it that caused that harm.”
Ms Skinner highlighted several of Mr Fox’s social media posts, including a June 2022 tweet of four pride flags arranged in the shape of a swastika.
“Such a disgusting post could only be made by a complete ignoramus or an intelligent racist with an agenda. Mr Fox is the latter,” she said.
The court was later told the politician tweeted a photo of himself in August 2023 “blacked up” and describing himself as someone who had “racially transitioned”.
Ms Skinner continued: “This is so offensive on so many levels that it is difficult to know where to start… this is self-evidently a racist tweet.”
The barrister later told the court Mr Blake and Mr Seymour had both faced serious harm to their reputations due to Mr Fox’s tweets and would defend their posts as expressions of honest opinion.
However, Patrick Green KC, for Mr Fox, said in his written submissions that neither man “has suffered any actual, real-world consequences” due to the actor’s tweets.
The barrister said that the posts did not cause people to think worse of Mr Blake and Mr Seymour and that people did not believe they were paedophiles.
Instead, Mr Green said readers would have understood that Mr Fox’s posts were a “retort to an allegation of racism” rather than a factual allegation.
Mr Green continued: “If a notorious person carries a sign outside the Downing Street gates every Saturday for 20 years, accusing whoever is the unfortunate incumbent Prime Minister of being a necrophiliac, there is no harm to that Prime Minster’s reputation in the eyes of the lobby journalists who frequent Downing Street.”
He said it was accepted that abuse had been sent to Mr Blake and Mr Seymour on the platform previously known as Twitter, but that it had been from “trolls, a well-recognised species of Twitter user who have, at best, a ribald sense of humour and, at worst, deep personality disorders”.
However, Mr Green said there is “little doubt that Mr Fox’s reputation has actually suffered very considerably” since October 2020, particularly in the mind of his former agent Sue Latimer.
He 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.”
Later the barrister said Mr Fox had experienced a “significant decline in the quantity and quality of roles offered”.
The court was shown a schedule of his “business opportunities” from 2019 onwards, which listed 52 opportunities in 2019, compared to four each in 2021 and 2022.
These include queries in 2019 regarding Mr Fox appearing on ITV’s The Masked Singer and as a contestant on Catchphrase, as well as an invite to Ascot Racecourse from Moet and Chandon champagne.
The court was also told of a February 2020 query about a role on Succession, and an invitation in November 2020 to audition for a project by Disney, thought to be the Obi-Wan series starring Ewan McGregor.
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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