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‘I Called out “Free Speech Champion” Laurence Fox as a “Racist” – and He Tried (and Failed) to Bully Me into Silence’

In an exclusive interview, Mukhtar Yassin explains how “a normal working-class bloke from the Ends” took on the millionaire-backed Reclaim Party leader

Mukhtar Yassin

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Until 4 March this year, describing Laurence Fox as “racist” risked the ‘free speech champion’ making legal threats with the prospect of financial ruin attached – as quite a number of people can testify.

Prior to that date, the actor-turned-TV presenter and politician faced regular accusations of racism from social media critics, and would often respond by promising expensive court action.

But due in part to Mukhtar Yassin, a young Black British man who – in a David versus Goliath battle – defied Mr Fox’s legal and financial threats, and a racist social media hate campaign from some of Fox’s 500,000 X/Twitter followers, doing so is now a lot less risky.

“I told Laurence Fox he was ‘a racist piece of shit’ on social media, and stand by every word,” says Mr Yassin in an hour-long call with Byline Times, his first and only interview since Fox abandoned his threats and made a “significant” contribution to Yassin’s legal costs last month. 

“Fox’s threat of libel action against me was ridiculous and never stood a chance of succeeding. He tried to flex his muscles and bully me, and it didn’t work. If I continue to call out Laurence Fox as racist, he can try to sue me again if he wants, but he won’t because he knows he’ll lose.

“And he didn’t lose to just anybody, he lost – badly, and very publicly – to a young Black boy. I think that will have hurt and embarrassed him. Now he even gets heckled about it in the streets.”

Reclaim Party candidate Laurence Fox. Photo: PA/Alamy

Yassin is, by his own admission, “just a normal working-class bloke from The Ends”. The 29-year-old Muslim lives on a council estate in the Black Country, works in IT and has no legal background, let alone the sort of money required to defend himself against expensive litigation from a high-profile figure on the British right, whose political party Reclaim is backed by the multi-millionaire businessman Jeremy Hosking.

And yet that is exactly where Yassin found himself on 2 May last year when he called out a racially-charged post made the previous day by the then GB News presenter.

“It all started when Fox quote tweeted someone to say: ‘Dear Black people. Stop making everything about you’. I ‘quote tagged’ him saying I thought he was a ‘racist piece of shit’,” says Yassin. 

“He told me to delete it and apologise. I replied saying ‘suck your mum’. I know it was childish, and that Fox might try to sue me if he was able to find my address, but it was funny, and I don’t regret it.”

At the time, Fox was going through separate libel proceedings against Crystal, a drag artist, Simon Blake, a former Stonewall trustee, and Nicola Thorp, an actor, all of whom had also called Fox a racist on X [then Twitter], in October 2020. The three had themselves taken legal steps against Fox for calling them “paedophiles”, and he countersued.

With Fox having threatened legal action, Yassin says he seemed in private to be “increasingly desperate” not to sue but “did not want to lose face” in public. Yassin last week posted on X screenshots of Fox on one occasion offering him the opportunity to “discuss” the matter before Fox pursued legal action. 

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“One of Fox’s GB News colleagues contacted me privately to tell me Fox wanted me to go on his show so he could get me to say something that would support his case. His bosses apparently saw it was a terrible idea and overruled it, not that I’d have gone on anyway.”

Four months after Yassin’s posts, Fox’s legal team managed to track down the address of one of Yassin’s family and served legal papers there. “None of my family knew about the legal threat as they are not on X. They asked me, ‘Who the fuck is Laurence Fox and why is he suing you?’ When I explained that he was sort of famous on X, my mum told me if I believed my words then I should stand by them. So I did.”

That’s not to say Yassin took it lightly. “I’m not going to lie, I was shocked and nervous. It’s a weird feeling. It was a lot to process. So many emotions go through your head when you get a letter like that. I have no legal knowledge; I didn’t even know any solicitors.

“But the day I got the letter I spoke to a few high-profile people, including [the MP] Dawn Butler, who put me in touch with the lawyer who was representing Nicola Thorp, Simon Blake, and Crystal. Once I heard how confident the lawyer was, and I had digested the letter, I felt better. I knew I was right, and Fox didn’t have a leg to stand on.”

Fox posting yet more examples of his apparent ‘racism’ also added to Yassin’s self-belief. “He tweeted one photograph of himself in ‘Black face’ and in another tweet, he told a Black person to ‘fuck off back to Jamaica’; The more he kept tweeting stuff like this the more I knew I would win. The rest is history.”

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Yassin was further heartened by the many hundreds of tweets and messages from people supporting his cause – as his follower numbers doubled, and then trebled – many of whom donated to a £35,000 crowdfund for his legal fees. “I was overwhelmed; I didn’t realise how divisive people found Fox to be,” he says. 

The positive messages drowned out the negative ones, many of which Yassin says were overtly racist. “For almost two weeks I had loads of far-right accounts calling me [the ‘N-word’] and that I should ‘go home’, that Fox would ‘destroy’ me, or I would get beaten up if they saw me in public. It was relentless.

“X under Elon Musk is horrible. It’s like it has opened the floodgates to every racist around the world. I could tweet ‘Good Afternoon’ and within half an hour I would have people saying ‘what are you doing in my country?’ The stuff I see on there now is insane. It goes to dark places I’ve never seen, with misogynists, Islamophobes, conspiracy theorists. This didn’t happen before Musk took over.

“Before then, if someone called me [the ‘N-word’] I would report it and within a few days, the post would be removed. Now when you complain you get a notification saying the rules have not been broken, but they make the post invisible. It’s a con trick. It gives racists confidence to say what they like. And it means there’s no point complaining.”

The rise of GB News, and its often barely-disguised racism, are simply two sides of the same coin, says Yassin. “GB News is toxic. They are just there to brainwash and radicalise people, and Ofcom don’t do anything about it. As a regulator, it makes me wonder whether it’s fit for purpose. GB News and X/Twitter both validate one another. It is an echo chamber of prejudice which unfortunately makes a lot of noise.”

With GB News under pressure to change its culture, Fox was sacked last September following a misogyny scandal which also led to the departure of the channel’s star £600,000-a-year host Dan Wootton in March.

“I was delighted,” says Yassin. “I felt that Fox losing some of his income and profile would have hurt him. But he’s responsible for his own downfall.”

After Fox lost his other libel action in late January – with the judge finding that the three tweets cited in his counterclaim were unlikely to cause serious harm to his reputation – his lawyers offered to drop his case against Yassin -!if Yassin paid his own legal fees and signed a gagging clause. “I said ‘fuck that, no way’.”

Fox then said he would drop the case with a “contribution” towards Yassin’s legal fees without a confidentiality clause in place, to which Yassin agreed because he “wanted it over and done with.”

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Yassin says he doesn’t think Fox believes himself to be racist, “even though so much of what he’s saying has racist overtones”.

“One of the phrases he uses is he ‘has Black friends’ – he has a mixed-race girlfriend – and that makes him think he can’t possibly be racist and can say what he wants. It’s odd.”

Yassin also questions why Jeremy Hosking, a former Conservative Party donor – ranked number 351 in the Sunday Times Rich List 2019, with a net worth of £375 million – and a shareholder in Crystal Palace Football Club, is “funding hate” via The Reclaim Party. Fox, its leader, accrued legal fees for the two combined cases believed to be more than £2 million. 

“I find it weird that someone would back a person like Fox. Fox is vile and anyone who backs him is going to appear to agree with him. It feels like Hosking and his ilk are using Fox and those like him to fund hate, sow division and wage a culture war.

“I can’t understand why people would want to do this. How would it benefit them? Or benefit society?”

Byline Times has been told that Hosking has ceased to fund Fox since his latest legal defeat, but when approached on this matter, Hosking declined to comment. In reply to several questions from Byline Times, Laurence Fox replied: “Thanks… I only speak with real journalists.”

Yassin, a devoted “family man”, is more interested in the thoughts of those close to him. “When I got off the phone to my lawyer who told me Fox had dropped the case last month, I told my mum and she said, ‘I’m proud of you, son’. Hearing her say that meant everything.”

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