Labour MP Jess Phillips today accused Boris Johnson of being a “racist” as she hit out at the new Foreign Secretary.
Philips shouted the comment in Prime Minister’s Questions this afternoon, after Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn quizzed Theresa May over Johnson’s previous use of the racial slur “piccaninnies” in an magazine article.
Corbyn also asked if May had spoken to the former London Mayor over his assertion that President Obama’s “part-Kenyan heritage” meant he had an “ancestral dislike” of Britain.
May dodged the question, leading Philips to shout: “He’s a racist” from the backbenches.
Johnson made the “piccaninnies” comment in a newspaper article in 2002, where he mocked the then-Prime Minister Tony Blair’s globetrotting.
He wrote: “What a relief it must be for Blair to get out of England. It is said that the Queen has come to love the Commonwealth, partly because it supplies her with regular cheering crowds of flag-waving piccaninnies.”
He added: “They say he is shortly off to the Congo. No doubt the AK47s will fall silent, and the pangas will stop their hacking of human flesh, and the tribal warriors will all break out in watermelon smiles to see the big white chief touch down in his big white British taxpayer-funded bird.”
He apologised for the remarks while canvassing to be London Mayor in 2008.
In April this year, Johnson described Obama as “part-Kenyan” ahead of the US President’s visit to the UK in a bid to dilute any influence the pro-Remain leader would have in the EU Referendum.
The comments came back to haunt Johnson in a press conference alongside US Secretary of State John Kerry earlier this week.
The Uxbridge MP claimed some of his comments were being taken “out of context” but he was still subject to a grilling by journalists.
Gardiner Harris, of the New York Times, asked Johnson: “I understand you don’t want to revisit the past, but you have an unusually long history of wild exaggerations and frankly outright lies, which I think few foreign secretaries have prior to this job.
Harris asked how Kerry “should believe” anything Johnson said in his new job.
Johnson, who hung his head briefly as some of his past words were read back to him, said “people are more than welcome to rake over stuff I have written over many, many years”.
Asked whether he wanted to apologise to world leaders he had offended in various newspaper columns, Johnson insisted his remarks were often taken out of context.
“I’m afraid there is such a rich thesaurus of things I’ve said that have been, one way or another, through what alchemy I do not know, somehow misconstrued, that it would really take me too long to enface in a full global itinerary of apology,” he said.
“People who read the things in their proper context can understand what was intended.”
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