JK Rowling ignited a fresh trans war of words on Twitter last night with singer Billy Bragg, as she claimed ‘bearded men’ are defining what a woman is and suggested he is ‘throwing [his] support behind rape and death threats’.

The row erupted over an interview of Graham Norton at the Cheltenham Literature Festival this week where he strongly criticised cancel culture.

Bragg, 64, retweeted a video of the interview and said Norton was ‘really good’ on cancel culture ‘and JK Rowling’.

The author, 57, saw the tweet and attacked the singer, saying she was ‘enjoying the recent spate of bearded men stepping confidently onto their soapboxes to define what a woman is and throw their support behind rape and death threats’.

But Bragg did not define what a woman was at any point in his initial tweet, and simply supported Norton’s suggestion that people discuss trans issues with the parents of trans children or doctors and psychologists instead of referring to celebrity viewpoints.

After Ms Rowling seemed to suggest both Norton and Bragg were ‘misogynists’ she received widespread backlash from social media users for the claim, for which she provided no evidence. 

In Norton’s interview, the TV host slammed those who claim to have been ‘cancelled’ yet still have a large platform, and are seen writing articles or being interviewed about being silenced.

He added that ‘cancelled’ is ‘the wrong word’, and it should instead be replaced with ‘accountability’ for what people say.

Bragg, 64, tweeted in support of Graham Norton's comments, adding that he had responded well on a question about Ms Rowling

Bragg, 64, tweeted in support of Graham Norton’s comments, adding that he had responded well on a question about Ms Rowling

The interviewer questioned Norton on Ms Rowling but he declined to comment on her stance on transgender issues.

He said: ‘When I’m asked about it, I become a part of it.

‘My voice adds nothing to that discussion and I’m sort of embarrassed that I’m somehow drawn into it.

‘If people want to shine a light on those issues then talk to trans people. Talk to the parents of trans kids, talk to doctors, talk to scientists.

‘Talk to someone who can illuminate it in some way.’ 

Norton had also criticised Monty Python star John Cleese about his views on cancel culture. 

Cleese this week told the BBC he would never work for them again because the broadcaster would cancel him in five minutes. 

Sharing Norton’s interview to his followers, Bragg said: ‘Norton really good here on John Cleese, telling him that “cancel culture” is just accountability, and JK Rowling, suggesting that the media talk directly to trans teens and their parents rather than merely amplifying the takes of a celebrity.’

But Ms Rowling quickly hit back, writing: ‘Very much enjoying the recent spate of bearded men stepping confidently onto their soapboxes to define what a woman is and throw their support behind rape and death threats to those who dare disagree.

‘You may mock, but takes real bravery to come out as an Old Testament prophet.’

She also appeared to take a thinly veiled swipe at both Norton and Bragg as she added in a reply: ‘I like beards. I just don’t like them when they’re attached to misogynists.’ 

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Bragg later replied to her tweet and said: ‘Hard to think of anything that better illustrates Graham Norton’s point than the sight of someone with 13.9m followers reacting to a call for a fair hearing for trans teens and their parents by equating it to *checks notes* support for rape and death threats.’

Her comments about misogyny saw swift backlash on social media, with countless social media users questioning how Norton had displayed any such behaviour in his advocacy for people to discuss transgender issues with experts and those affected. 

US singer Simon Curtis replied: ‘Graham Norton is a misogynist for saying media should source commentary from experts instead of seeking clickbait celebrity quotes, and [Right-wing political commentator] Matt Walsh, a living parody of a villain from Handmaid’s Tale, is your new friend? 

‘What have you become?’ 

A second said the author had ‘lost the plot’.

JK Rowling has sparked multiple controversies over her views on trans rights in recent years, and says she has received death threats and rape threats from those who disagree with her. 

It comes after another recent high-profile row in which Ms Rowling went to war with Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon.

Ms Rowling branded her a ‘destroyer of women’s rights’ – wearing a T-shirt with it as a motif and posting the photo on Twitter on October 6.

Later Ms Sturgeon ratcheted up the row by suggesting that the author is not a ‘real feminist’ – and that she is.

The author tweeted as she lent her support to campaigners who gathered outside the Scottish parliament to protest against the devolved government’s controversial gender reforms wrapped up in the Gender Recognition Reform (Scotland) Bill.

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But Ms Sturgeon bit back, saying: ‘Abusive men are a risk to women – that is what we should be focusing on.

‘We shouldn’t be seeking to further stigmatise and discriminate against a tiny, tiny group in society that are already one of the most stigmatised groups in society.

‘There are many, many real threats to women out there right now, from physical attacks, attacks of sexual violence to the removal of abortion and reproductive rights to what women in countries like Iran are going through.

‘The threat to women in our society today is not from trans women, it is from abusive men, from lawmakers who want to take away our rights and that is what we should be focusing on.’


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