Comedian Rosie Jones recalls ‘overwhelming’ ableist trolling after Question Time appearance

Rosie Jones in a puffy yellow dress at the BAFTA red carpet.

Comedian Rosie Jones has spoken candidly about the horrific level of online abuse she faced following her appearance on the BBC’s Question Time.

For the past few days, Jones’ name has been plastered all over social media. The lesbian stand-up comic has received a wave of criticism for the title of her upcoming, “unflinchingly personal” Channel 4 documentary, which will explore the extreme ableist abuse she receives online and in-person.

The programme, Rosie Jones: Am I a R*tard?, ignited an intense backlash, following Jones’ and the producers’ decision to keep the ableist R-word slur in the name – despite criticism earlier this year.

Several of the documentary’s contributors, including influencers Shelby Lynch, Kate Stanforth and Lucy Dawson, withdrew their involvement, with Lynch writing that she “didn’t want anything to do with the documentary unless the name was changed,” and that she “went backwards and forwards” with the creators in an attempt to get the slur removed.

For her part, Jones, who has ataxic cerebral palsy, has doubled down on the use of the slur, explaining that she wanted to “tackle the problem head-on and use that word in the title,” with the hope that “people will think twice about using [it] and other ableist slurs again”.

As the condemnation of the title continues, with Channel 4 and Jones appearing reluctant to budge, the furore seems to have overshadowed the documentary’s vital content.

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Behind the controversial title, the film will see Jones expose the reality of ableist trolling in the UK today, and explore how social media companies let it go unchecked. She will even confront one troll face-to-face.

Now, in an interview with The Guardian, the comic and Sex Education writer has revealed that while she has received ableist discrimination “every f*****g day”, the hateful comments reached a crescendo following her appearance on Question Time in 2021.

Jones revealed that her appearance on the late-evening BBC1 show – during which she criticised former prime minister Boris Johnson and his “scary” party conference speech – sent the online abuse levied at her skyrocketing.

“I attracted a new audience: people who didn’t agree with my political beliefs,” she said. “They couldn’t find the words to express it so they just attacked my disability or appearance. They’re the low-hanging fruits. The amount of abuse I got was overwhelming. Even the strongest person couldn’t deal with that.”

Jones, who has also appeared on popular comedy panel shows including 8 Out of 10 Cats and The Last Leg, has spoken before about the discrimination she’s received in-person, from people shouting abuse at her, to others asking “where’s [your] carer”? 

On social media, however, the abuse appears to have reached new heights. One example she shared as part of her emotional interview included a person who tweeted: “I’m going to hunt you down, pour acid down your throat and rape you.”

While Jones has tried to maintain a “healthy relationship” with social media, she admitted that she has hired a company to help prevent her seeing trolls’ comments, and has started therapy.

Rosie Jones smiles while appearing on the BBC Question Time panel.
Rosie Jones on BBC’s Question Time in 2021. (BBC)

“I don’t think anybody could read that much abuse directed at them and not have it take a toll on their mental health… I feel anxious whenever I need to go on social media, I find it difficult to ignore. But I’m trying,” she said, adding that she felt “sad and angry” while exploring the trolling for her documentary.

She feels powerless to stop it, explaining that she doesn’t report it to the police because she doesn’t know “how seriously it would be taken”.

Social media companies aren’t much help either, she said.

While LGBTQ+ people know how harmful some social media giants can be, Jones said that they are equally as detrimental to disabled users.

“Social media platforms aren’t interested in being accountable, they’re fuelled by hate,” she claimed. “That’s how they get more users, more money.”

Rosie Jones: Am I a R*tard? will air on Channel 4 in mid-July.