Equity has issued an apology to actor Laurence Fox for a series of tweets that labelled him a “disgrace” following his appearance on the BBC’s Question Time.
The tweets were sent out in January by the union’s minority ethnic members committee, but the apology issued suggests the union is taking responsibility for them.
In a statement, it said: “On January 17, a series of tweets were posted by the minority ethnic members committee’s twitter account about Laurence Fox’s appearance on BBC Question Time.”
The statement added: “We are sorry that in the tweets he was called a disgrace by Equity. It was a mistake for Equity, as an organisation, to criticise him in this way. Nothing in Equity’s later statement was intended as a slur on his character or views, or to suggest he should be denied the ability to work. We would like to make that clear.”
It concludes by stating that Equity and Fox “condemn prejudice unequivocally in all its forms”.
A source close to Fox said Equity had agreed an “out of court settlement with Laurence after calls for him to be ‘unequivocally denounced’ by the equity minority members committee”.
“He is pleased and grateful to Equity for this decision. He looks forward now to moving on in his professional and personal life after what has been a very difficult period for him and his family,” the source said.
The minority ethnic members committee’s tweets were sent out in January, describing Fox’s words on the programme as “disgraceful playing to the gallery” and labelling him a “disgrace to our industry”.
The comments came after Fox addressed remarks made by Question Time audience member Rachel Boyle, who said Meghan, Duchess of Sussex had been the victim of racism.
Fox responded by saying: “We’re the most tolerant, lovely country in Europe. It’s not racism. It’s so easy to just throw your charge of racism at everybody and it’s really starting to get boring now.”
When Boyle described him as “a white privileged male” he replied: “I can’t help what I am, I was born like this, it’s an immutable characteristic, so to call me a white privileged male is to be racist — you’re being racist.”
The committee said in its series of tweets that it was “extremely disturbed” that Fox had been given a platform to “berate and bully women of colour attempting to discuss issues of race and gender discrimination”.
It went on to describe Fox as a “disgrace to our industry” and said he had “occupied a highly advantaged position”, but added he had appeared to “damn any recognition of that privilege as the very racism he claims is exaggerated when people of colour try to discuss it”.
The committee used its Twitter account to claim he was guilty of “a disgraceful playing to the gallery, a populist tirade, with women of colour being used as cannon fodder”.
“We call on all Equity members to unequivocally denounce Laurence Fox and his comments,” it added.
Equity subsequently said the tweets had been sent out without consultation with the union, and later admitted to deleting the tweets.
A follow-up statement said Equity had a proud “tradition of fighting racism and campaigning for equality and diversity in the entertainment industries”.
“The union has rules that are a protection for both the union as an organisation and its members. These rules are not easy bedtime reading and sometimes they are inadvertently broken. It was a mistake to criticise a member of the profession without consultation with the union,” the statement said.