During the coronavirus pandemic, Scottish comedian Janey Godley was lauded in several glowing profiles for keeping the country laughing through tough times. So much so, in fact, that the Scottish government recently paid her a reported £12,000 ($16,500) to become the star of its new public health campaign to “stop the spike” as case numbers rose again.
However, the Scottish government overlooked dozens of Godley’s shockingly racist tweets—and, a day after being presented with a list of them by The Daily Beast, the government decided to ditch the campaign.
A glance at Godley’s historic tweets show that, although she now presents herself in line with the center-left Scottish government’s inclusive messaging, that was not always the case. The Daily Beast showed the government 20 blatantly racist tweets from Godley that were sent between 2010 and 2012, when Godley, 60, was in her early fifties. The offensive tweets mostly reference Black American celebrities, including Kelly Rowland from Destiny’s Child, 50 Cent, and Snoop Dogg—but also random Black members of the public.
Several of the most shocking tweets were sent while Rowland was judging The X Factor talent show in Britain in 2011, and it appears Godley took a dislike to how the singer looked and spoke. One tweet read: “Fucksake That horsey face black wummin on Xfactor is flashing her tits...is this not a kids show?” Another said: “Kelly does speak like the stereotyped black Aunt Jemima who stands on a stool in the Tom & Jerry cartoons screaming ‘TOM TOM.’” A third tweet from Godley described the Destiny’s Child star as “the black horse from USA.”
There are several more tweets about Rowland that are clearly racist, including: “If Kelly talks like a ghetto blaster racist black chick am gonna punch her rice and peas.”
Godley, a veteran comedian and a supporter of Scotland’s pro-independence devolved government, shot to global online fame in 2016 after a photograph of her holding a sign saying “Trump is a cunt” outside one of the ex-president’s Scottish resorts went viral. At the start of the pandemic, she racked up hundreds of thousands of views by dubbing over public health briefings from Scotland’s first minister, Nicola Sturgeon, in Glaswegian slang.
The comedian was praised the world over for her comedy during the pandemic. The Wall Street Journal described her as “one of the reasons Scotland so far has done better in containing the pandemic than other countries.” Jason Leitch, the senior clinical adviser to the Scottish government—basically Scotland’s Dr. Anthony Fauci—said last year: “I honestly think Janey’s done more for public-health advice than I’ve done in 11 months.”
In an attempt to capitalize on her viral popularity, the Scottish government warmly welcomed the comedian into the country’s establishment. Sturgeon appeared with Godley in a charity comedy sketch last year, and the first minister even described the comedian as her “alter ego.” Then, last week, the Scottish government unveiled a new coronavirus awareness ad campaign that stars Godley saying lines in her typical ultra-Scottish style such as: “We cannae just let this virus run rampant like a wean [child] at a buffet.” The ads have run online and on national TV.
Besides her abhorrent X Factor tweets, Godley also wrote multiple racist tweets about Black U.S. rappers. She repeatedly tagged 50 Cent in her posts—one said: “There's nothing classier than a black rap man in a well cut suit with photo’s of guns in the background...mmm sexy.” Another said: “If it wasn’t the fact he is a big black man talking about his dick I wouldn’t have known he was a rapper?” 50 Cent once responded to Godley after being bombarded with her tweets, telling her: “take yo big ass to sleep if you dont like what im saying.”
Another rapper, Snoop Dogg, was mentioned in a tweet which read: “I can't believe snoop dog gets jailed for possessing weed—he's a black rapper of course he has weed that's his job isn't it? And singing.” The comedian also complained about Black fans of Kanye West who messaged her after she compared the African slave trade to forced evictions from the Scottish Highlands in the 18 and 19th centuries: “The amount of black people annoyed I wrote ‘we are descendants of highlands clearances’ to Kanye. offended are ye? get fucked.”
Godley’s offensive tweets about rappers included another from 2010 in which she wrote: “just watch Justin Beiber video they need to stop leaving the wee boy with big black fat rappers at parties..who is looking after that child?” Godley also called Italian soccer player Mario Balotelli an “angry black man,” and even complained about encounters with Black people in public.
One of her tweets said: “Got accosted with 2 ‘american rap’ speaking black guys one had a hairnet in the Burger King ‘i will pop a cap in yer hairnet' i said.” Another historic tweet from Godley read: “In hotel room which resembles a prison There are big black men next room pretending to be hard core rappers ! Not in this hotel luv!”
The comedian has also repeatedly ridiculed the work of her Black comedy colleagues in Britain, writing in one tweet: “Can some Black male comics not tell us the size of their cock?” Godley also tweeted a decade ago: “Were all black guys who became comedians the ONLY black guy at school in London in the 80s? really? were they really all good at dancing?”
As of Wednesday, all of the tweets mentioned in this article were still live on Godley’s verified Twitter profile. They were deleted after The Daily Beast sent a list of them to Godley’s representative in a request for comment.
In a statement sent to The Daily Beast, Godley said: “These historic tweets that people have quite rightly found offensive, are deeply hurtful and shows my lack of empathy and zero self-awareness and come from a time of ignorance in my life, I am a firm believer in progress not perfection, I will continue to progress. People have every right to see who they are supporting and what values they hold and looking through their past social media is the way forward. I apologise for every single offensive word I wrote.”
The comedian added: “The offensive replies from me were to accounts that threatened me and I lashed out with abhorrent heckles. Their accounts were suspended, I should have blocked and reported them and not argued back. Comedy is no excuse for shocking and hurting people with words. I will endeavour to be better in future.”
However, despite Godley’s claim, most of the tweets detailed in this article were not sent as replies to other accounts.
She went on in her statement: “There are fake tweets that were created to threaten me, but notwithstanding, the ones I wrote, I take responsibility for. During the course of this pandemic, I have tried to keep everyone’s spirits up and at the same time highlight the dangers. I am passionate about this and will continue to help in any way I can.”
A day after the tweets were initially flagged, the Scottish government confirmed it would no longer be running the Godley-fronted COVID campaign and pulled the clip from YouTube.
A Scottish government spokesperson said: “A series of unacceptable tweets by Janey Godley have been brought to our attention and, while she has rightly apologised, trust in our public health messages at this time is paramount.”
It went on: “We have therefore taken the decision to withdraw any further campaign material in which Ms Godley features. The material will be discontinued immediately on our own channels and withdrawn as soon as possible from external media.”