A TORY peer has paid damages and apologised after wrongly accusing a University Challenge team of 'antisemitism' for choosing an octopus as their mascot.

Former MEP Jacqueline Foster alleged in a since-deleted tweet that doctoral student at Oxford University Melika Gorgianeh — who wears a headscarf – had chosen the octopus mascot for her Christ Church team, calling it antisemitic.

Tagging Rishi Sunak, the BBC and Oxford in the post, Foster called for the student to be expelled from university and arrested.

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The octopus is a longstanding trope of antisemitic conspiracy theories, but the BBC has since said that the episode was filmed in March last year – before the conflict in Gaza. The broadcaster also said the entire team picked the octopus as it was “one of their favourite animals”.

Gorgianeh was the focus of numerous news reports about the claims in the aftermath of the episode being released.

The Tory peer apologised publicly and privately to the student, before again reiterating the same in a post on Twitter/X today.

Foster tweeted: “Following my public apology on X on 30 November 2023 and my private apology by personal letter on 1 December 2023, I wish to apologise to Ms Gorgianeh for my part in posts made about her on X on November 20 2023 following the airing of @BBC’s University Challenge programme.

“I wrongly alleged that Ms Gorgianeh chose one of the most disgusting antisemitic symbols, a blue octopus, as her team’s mascot which I held her responsible for. I accept that these allegations were completely false and unfounded. I made a grave mistake in making those posts and I should not have done so.

“I again deeply apologise to Ms Gorgianeh for these allegations and any distress caused to her. We have since reached an amicable resolution. I do hope this goes some way in mitigating what has been a most distressing time for her. I have agreed to pay her substantial damages and costs.”

A statement released by Gorgianeh’s solicitors, Rahman Lowe, said Foster’s actions had “a profound and deeply damaging impact” including death threats.

It read: “Baroness Foster’s posts, and the posts of others who are yet to be held to account, affected both myself and my family. I felt unsafe to even leave my house. Nobody should ever have to feel how I felt or go through what I went through. Words have consequences. And now, through her apology, Baroness Foster’s words begin to have the consequence of healing the very real damage that had been done to me.”