Sky History has axed its new woodworking show The Chop while it investigates a contestant’s tattoos after viewers reported they appeared to have links to Nazism and white supremacists.
The new competition show, which hunts for “Britain’s top woodworker” in the style of The Great British Bake Off, is hosted by presenters Lee Mack and Rick Edwards.
But after a promotional clip was released featuring heavily-tattooed contestant Darren Lumsden, social media users pointed out that several numbers inked on him had apparent links to white supremacy.
They include the number 88 – which white supremacists use as a code for “Heil Hitler” – H being the eighth letter of the alphabet – according to the Anti-Defamation League (ADL).
The numbers 23 and 16 are also tattooed on the side of his head – a numeric symbol used by white supremacists to signify “white power”, and also referring to the position of letters in the alphabet, the ADL says.
Sky History initially insisted the tattoos “denote significant events” in Mr Lumsden’s life “and have no political or ideological meaning whatsoever”, but later released a statement confirming the show had been pulled while it investigates.
The channel said: “While we investigate the nature and meaning of Darren’s tattoos we have removed the video featuring him from our social media, and will not be broadcasting any episodes of The Chop until we have concluded that investigation.
“Sky History stands against racism and hate speech of all kinds.”
After the trailer was aired, historian Dr Elizabeth Boyle from Maynooth University in Ireland said she had seen “at least five recognised Nazi/white power tattoos on this guy’s face”.
The Campaign Against Antisemitism group also criticised Sky History, saying it had made “a terrible mistake” by including a contestant “adorned with what appear to be neo-Nazi tattoos without providing serious evidence to show that the tattoos mean something other than how they appear”.
“These tattoos will be plainly visible to viewers on the show, including younger viewers, which is unacceptable,” it said.
“If Sky History is indeed ‘intolerant of racism’ as it claims, then it must urgently provide a credible clarification or remove the contestant from the programme.”
Asked whether Mack or Mr Lumsden would be commenting, Sky History referred Sky News to its earlier statement.
Before confirming The Chop had been pulled, the channel had posted several tweets – that have since been deleted – which said: “Darren’s tattoos denote significant events in his life and have no political or ideological meaning whatsoever.
“Amongst the various numerical tattoos on his body, 1988 is the year of his father’s death.
“The production team carried out extensive background checks on all the woodworkers taking part in the show, that confirmed Darren has no affiliations or links to racist groups, views or comments.
“Sky History is intolerant of racism and all forms of hatred and any use of symbols or numbers is entirely incidental and not meant to cause harm or offence.”