Labour leadership contender Jeremy Corbyn has accused Channel 4 News of 'tabloid journalism' after a live TV grilling over his description of Hamas and Hezbollah as 'friends'.
The veteran leftwinger lost his temper with news anchor Krishnan Guru-Murthy following a repeated line of questioning over his use of the phrase about the two main militant groups in the Palestinian Authority and in Lebanon.
Mr Corbyn finally said that "I use it in a collective way, saying our friends are prepared to talk" and denied that the wording meant he was friendly to either Hamas or Hezbollah.
"Does it mean I agree with Hamas and what it does? No. Does it mean I agree with Hezbollah and what they do? No. What it means is that I think to bring about a peace process, you have to talk to people with whom you may profoundly disagree."
Jeremy Corbyn loses his rag with Krishnan Guru-Murthy when asked about Hamas and Hezbollah https://t.co/0iAP97pHXP— Tahira Mirza (@tahiramirza1) July 14, 2015
Plainly furious with Guru-Murthy for his interview approach, Mr Corbyn told him "thanks for the tabloid journalism".
To which the Channel Four man replied: "That's not tabloid journalism, that's putting your own words back to you."
Corbyn hit back: "Yes it is! You are evading asking me to give an opportunity to discuss with the wider issue of the Middle East".
Hamas and Hezbollah are proscribed as terror groups in the United States and have been condemned for their anti-Semitism and military action against Israeli civilians.
Amnesty International has accused Hamas of abductions, torture and unlawful killings of Palestinians too. But their supporters believe they and Hezbollah are the legitimate representatives of voters in both Gaza and Lebanon.
Early in the Channel 4 interview, the Islington North MP stressed that he had used the phrase 'friends' to introduce speakers from Hezbollah at a Parliamentary meeting.
"I spoke at a meeting about the Middle East crisis in Parliament and there were people there from Hezbollah," he explained.
"And I said I welcomed our friends from Hezbollah to have a discussion and a debate, and I said I wanted Hamas to be part of that debate. I have met Hamas in Lebanon and I've met Hezbollah in this country and Lebanon.
"The wider question is Hamas and Hezbollah are part of a wider peace process. Even the former head of Mossad says that there has to be talks involving Hamas.
"I've also had discussions with people from the Right in Israeli politics who have the same view possibly that the state of Israel should extend from the river to the sea, as it is claimed people from the Palestinian side do."
The whole controversy stemmed from this YouTube clip that emerged last month of Mr Corbyn speaking about the two groups.
The exchanges prompted lively debate on Twitter, with some praising the Channel 4 man for asking the question but others supporting Mr Corbyn for his defiant response.
@krishgm Surely you don't think Corbyn is wrong to call for discussions involving Hamas to try & bring about peace between Israel/Palestine?— David Stockdale (@DavidStockdale) July 13, 2015
@DavidStockdale what I think is utterly irrelevant. I asked a simple question - which he did, eventually, answer. We moved on.— Krishnan Guru-Murthy (@krishgm) July 13, 2015
Some Labour members liked the feisty response.
Well done Krishnan on Channel 4 news: you've made me think a lot better of Jeremy Corbyn. He makes the other Labour contenders look feeble.— christopher foren (@ChrisForen) July 13, 2015
I thought Jeremy Corbyn had a point, Murphy making a pointless point. Like the media always do. Wasting time arguing over a word.— Bristol Common Sense (@BristolComSense) July 13, 2015
Some felt he lost his temper too easily.
Just saw the clip of Corbyn losing his nut over being called on his foreign policy opinions. Troubling.July 13, 2015
Others just remarked wryly on the 'nought-to-sixty' acceleration in Mr Corbyn's angry reaction.
Just imagine if you inadvertently took Jeremy Corbyn's all-but-empty pint away. "LET ME FINISH!"— Andy Cowper (@HPIAndyCowper) July 13, 2015
Mr Corbyn, who faced similar controversy when he backed talks with Sinn Fein during the height of the IRA's bombing campaign in the 1980s, is winning local party support in his bid for leader.
Among constituency Labour Party nominations, he is so far in second place behind Andy Burnham, but ahead of Yvette Cooper and Liz Kendall.
Last week, The Huffington Post UK revealed that campaign group Labour First were so worried about the Corbyn camp's momentum that it called on Burnham, Cooper and Kendall supporters to unite to ensure he didn't get CLP nominations.
Earlier today, we also revealed that a Corbyn supporter was the man behind a spoof 'Liz Kendall for Tory leader' Facebook and Twitter account.Suggest a correction