July 17, 2024

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The BBC has been forced to deny claims that an octopus mascot on quiz University Challenge was displayed by contestants as a coded attack on Jewish people.

Screenshots of Monday night’s episode are going viral on X (formerly Twitter), with users claiming that the mascot bears a resemblance to anti-Semitic Nazi propaganda.

There are also allegations that contestant Melika Gorgianeh was wearing the colors of the Palestinian flag during her appearance on University Challenge, Britain’s longest-running quiz show.

Ben Obese-Jecty, who will stand to be a Conservative Party MP at the next UK election, said the University Challenge episode was “disgraceful.”

The BBC argued that the combination of the octopus, Gorgianeh’s jacket, and the timing of the episode was coincidence rather than conspiracy.

The corporation said the octopus was selected as a mascot by Oxford University students because it was one of their favorite animals, not because it evoked anti-Semitic propaganda.

The BBC added that the University Challenge episode was filmed in March, well before the current conflict in Gaza erupted, and the jacket worn by Gorgianeh was not representative of the Palestinian flag.

A similar Zara jacket is currently listed on second-hand fashion site Depop, where the seller describes the colors as “navy and orange” with pink detail. The Palestinian flag is black, green, and white, with a red triangle.

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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