University Challenge anti-Semitism

BBC denies allegations of antisemitism on University Challenge due to octopus mascot and Palestinian flag colours

‘We utterly condemn the abuse that has been posted and shared’

The BBC has responded to claims of antisemitism in an episode of University Challenge after a contestant on the Oxford University team competed with an octopus mascot and dressed in what appeared to be the colours of the Palestinian flag.

In a statement, a BBC spokesperson said the claims were “inaccurate” and that the episode was filmed in March.

The Christ Church Oxford contestant had a Jellycat octopus, which the BBC said was “one of their favourite animals” as their mascot in last night’s episode of University Challenge. Christ Church College Oxford were competing against Emmanuel College Cambridge.

But some people have pointed out that the Nazis used a blue octopus in some propaganda cartoons as an offensive antisemitic trope.

The original tweet, which now has over 3.3k likes, reads: “University challenged? Perhaps the BBC can explain? If this is deliberate then what does everyone reckon to reporting a hate crime?”

Another tweet added: “Antisemitic trope proudly on display here. Antisemitic propaganda during 19th/20th century often used octopus imagery to represent Jewish influence and control. I struggle to believe in the current climate this is a coincidence. BBC has serious questions to answer.”

However, many people clapped back against these claims. One person said:  “So now a cuddly toy octopus is automatically interpreted as antisemitic? Does this mean the production of cuddly toy octopuses should be banned? Wtf is wrong with people? Until the Greta pic a month ago no one thought that octopuses were an antisemitic trope.”

Another person added: “Yes – the octopus HAS been used as an antisemitic trope, but that doesn’t mean ALL octopi are antisemitic tropes.”

The BBC has denied any allegations of antisemitism. A BBC spokesperson said: “We are aware of a number of inaccurate claims being made online in relation to last night’s episode of University Challenge and we utterly condemn the abuse that has been posted and shared.

“For the avoidance of doubt, this episode was filmed in March. The mascot is one of many chosen by the team during the course of the series and is one of their favourite animals.

“The jacket worn by one of the contestants was navy blue, orange, pink and green, bought from a High Street retailer. It has no connection to any flag.”

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