Paul Nuttall has revealed he apologised to families of those who died at Hillsborough, after he was forced to retract a claim he lost “close personal friends” in the disaster.
The Ukip leader caused outrage about the 1989 stadium tragedy, in which 96 Liverpool fans were crushed to death and the memory of which still haunts the city.
Speaking on an ITV News segment to be broadcast on Thursday, he revealed he had apologised to families who lost loved ones at Hillsborough.
But he refused to disclose what they said to him.
He told ITV: “They obviously were upset, but because it brought the whole thing to the fore again, it was all over the national media and I totally understand that.”
The Hillsborough claim had appeared on Nuttall’s website but was taken down and attributed to a blunder by a Ukip press officer.
It was the most controversial of a series of false claims made in his name he had to deny during his failed campaign to be elected in the Stoke Central by-election earlier this year.
They included that he was once a professional footballer for Tranmere Rovers and that he holds a PhD.
ITV News host Julie Etchingham asked how he didn’t know what was on his website.
Nuttall said: “Well do you know it was, it was many years ago, I didn’t even check my website, and that is my fault.
“Ok I should have known what was put up on my website, it was, yeah it was difficult to take.”
He said he was “prepared to stand in a witness stand to talk about what I saw that day”, reaffirming his claim to have witnessed the disaster.
Paul Nuttall’s comments on Hillsborough in full:
Julie Etchingham: You know the one that caused the most controversy of course was the claim on your official website which said that you’d lost close personal friends at Hillsborough.
Paul Nuttall: Yeah.
JE: How could that have gone out without you being aware of it?
PN: Well do you know it was, it was many years ago, I didn’t even check my website, and that is my fault. Ok I should have known what was put up on my website, it was, yeah it was difficult to take. You know I apologised for it and I’ve given evidence to Operation Resolve and I’m prepared to stand in a witness stand to talk about what I saw that day. But I wanna put that in the past, that’s happened now, you know we move on.
JE. Have you apologised personally to the Hillsborough families?
JE: They were outraged by it weren’t they?
PN: Well it, do you know I just failed to check something which was put up in my name on my website, and for that… I’m truly sorry, it was a complete accident.
JE. Have you met with the Hillsborough families?
PN: Yes, but obviously what was said, you know, we will remain, it will remain very private.
JE: And that, how recently was the meeting?
PN: Well it was during the Stoke campaign but as I say you know I gave them my word that what was said will remain private and that’s where we’ll leave it.
JE: But you could understand how furious they were?
PN: Yeah, well you know they, they obviously were upset, but because it brought the whole thing to the fore again, it was all over the national media and I totally understand that.
Nuttall is standing as a candidate in the snap election in Boston and Skegness. The party is expected to shed a great deal of support as its voters ditch them for the now pro-Brexit Tories.
Etchingham asked Nuttall about a “a string of mistakes” that led to “some pretty serious questions about your integrity”.
He interrupted: “Hang on, hang on. I’ll deal with a couple of these. I mean firstly you know I’m half way, I’m half way through my PHD, I put it on hold ok.
“And there is numerous interviews which I have done over the years where I’ve always spoken about going back to finish my PHD once I finish in politics, ok.
“As for the professional football thing, you know that was a mistake by a press officer. I did play as a youngster for Tranmere for many, many years ok, I just never signed professional forms.”