The Oxford Union has cancelled its invitation to Graham Linehan, the creator of popular Channel 4 sitcoms The IT Crowd and Father Ted, widely known as a vocal critic of transgender rights and activism. 

Lineham was initially sent an invitation on behalf of the Union on 8th December 2020 to speak in the debate “This House Would Cancel Cancel Culture”. 

Yesterday, 16th December, just over a week after the original invite, the opportunity was cancelled, with Linehan receiving an email from the Union that read:

“I am afraid we can no longer accommodate your client Mr Linehan due to logistical difficulties, and feel it would be unfair to pursue this at this time.”

No other reasoning was cited within the email. Linehan has since taken to his private Substack forum to voice his reaction, writing:

“Wow, what an opportunity to really get to grips with cancel culture and what it means to our society. I’d better start thinking about the line I’m going to take, and give a few examples of oh wait no it’s been cancelled.”

Linehan initially drew controversy on Twitter in 2008 for an episode of The IT Crowd which featured a man having a violent transphobic reaction after he found out the woman he was dating was transgender, as well as the use of several well-known transphobic tropes for comedic effect. 

Since then, Linehan has been given a police warning after harassing transgender woman activist Stephanie Hayden and has been caught comparing medical transitions of children to Nazi experiments on children. On 27th June of this year, after JK Rowling created controversy for transphobic remarks, Linehan’s Twitter account was permanently suspended following what Twitter called “repeated violations of our rules against hateful content and platform manipulation”. He has since reportedly created multiple new accounts posing under the identity of trans men. 

This is not the first time societies within the University of Oxford have cancelled invitations to speakers to avoid platforming problematic views. Earlier this year, the formerly known UN Women Oxford society controversially cancelled an event scheduled to take place with Amber Rudd, ex-Conservative Home Secretary, shortly before it was due to start. Students had criticised Rudd for her use of racist language and culpability in the Home Office Windrush scandal. The then-President of UN Women Oxford resigned and the society was formally disbanded after being deregistered from the University’s official list of societies.

An Oxford Union spokesperson said:

“It is Union policy to not discuss preparations for future events until the release of the next term card. Debates go through multiple line ups based on a variety of factors, especially during this year, and this term is no different.”

Anvee Bhutani

Anvee Bhutani is the former Managing Director of The Oxford Blue, having also held a variety of roles on the editorial and business teams. She is a penultimate year student at Magdalen College reading Human Sciences and is originally from San Francisco, California. To reach out to her, please email [email protected]