EXCLUSIVE: The chief executive of one of the UK’s top diversity bodies has denied ‘liking’ allegedly antisemitic LinkedIn posts about Stephen Fry‘s Christmas speech.
Williams’ denial comes amid other questions about her social media activity, including re-posting a petition, shared by controversial politician Chris Williamson, calling on Israel’s ambassador to the UK to be expelled.
Abood was accused of antisemitism by high-profile Jewish producers after she wrote that Fry’s rallying cry against rising discrimination was “disingenuous” and demonstrated “where the power lies” in UK media. Fry’s six-minute speech was produced by Fulwell 73 for Channel 4.
Screenshots seen by Deadline show that Williams apparently ‘liked’ a message from Abood in which she said: “Unlike the disingenuous Fulwell Fry version, this is a Christmas Message I can get behind.”
Abood linked to an Alexei Sayle Google search. Sayle, a Jewish comedian who has been vocal in his support of Palestine, recorded his own Christmas speech, in which he accused other Jews of “bloviating” over the Gaza conflict and parroting the narrative of the “ruling class establishment.” He also accused Israel of “genocide.”
Williams denied liking Abood’s message. In a statement, Williams said that she did not follow Abood on LinkedIn and, instead, endorsed a post from an industry contact that was related to Abood’s original message about Sayle.
Williams also made clear that she did not like other messages from Abood in which she made claims about “where the power lies” in British television and argued that antisemitism “is not happening in a vacuum.”
A Creative Diversity Network spokesperson said: “Deborah ‘liked’ a post from an industry contact in a chain of posts relating back to Alexei Sayle’s alternative Christmas message as she’s a fan of the comedian.
“She didn’t directly ‘like’ Tamara Abood’s post about the Christmas message itself, as she doesn’t follow Tamara Abood and she was therefore unaware of any of her other posts and the content of them, and in particular the post mentioning “where power lies”.
“Deborah has fought racism and inequality in all its forms over the course of her career, including the past seven years running Creative Diversity Network where she has worked to make the television industry more inclusive for all.”
Williams’ explanation raised eyebrows, particularly in the context of her other social media activity. In recent days on Twitter (now X), she reposted a message from ITV presenter Robert Peston in which he said the accusation of antisemitism was being used to “silence legitimate and important debate.”
Last month, she retweeted a message from former Labour MP Chris Williamson calling on people to sign a petition regarding the expulsion of the Israeli ambassador to the UK. Williamson was thrown out of Labour in 2019 amid an antisemitism row and is under police investigation over a potential hate crime against Israel.
A source close to Williams said she retweeted Williamson without properly engaging with the content of his message.
Leo Pearlman, managing partner at Fulwell 73, was critical of Abood’s LinkedIn posts and has been vocal in calling out alleged discrimination against Jewish people since Hamas’ October 7 attack on Israel.
Commenting on Williams’ social media activity, he told Deadline: “Are we to honestly believe this nonsense from the CDN, that Ms Williams managed to endorse and amplify the appalling views of Chris Williamson, Tamara Abood, Alexei Sayle, etc without ever reading a single one of their posts or perhaps without any knowledge of their very publicly held views?
“Ms Williams holds an integral role within our industry, she and the CDN purport to represent the interests of all minorities. Well this should be a wake-up call for her, the organization and the industry, that fighting racism and inequality in all its forms, but explicitly excluding Jews from that claim, doesn’t make you a hero of diversity, it makes you the very definition of an antisemite and not fit for purpose.”
Williams has led the Creative Diversity Network for seven years. It is funded by the UK’s major broadcasters and monitors diversity in television shows. Paul Moore, ITV’s group corporate affairs and communications director, chairs the organization.
Abood, who now works as a psychotherapist but maintains links to the TV industry, has deleted her LinkedIn account, meaning her messages are no longer in the public domain. She has been contacted for comment.