Gerard Batten has described a rape tweet to Labour MP Jess Phillips from a UKIP MEP candidate as “satire”.
Carl Benjamin, who was announced as the party’s candidate for the South West this week, had previously told Phillips on social media: “I wouldn’t even rape you”.
But UKIP leader Batten defended Benjamin’s comment, telling BBC One’s Andrew Marr Show: “I think it was satire.”
Benjamin is a “classical liberal”, he continued. “I don’t know the exact context of that and I certainly don’t condone any remarks like that but he is not a bad person as he’s being portrayed.
“He is a proponent of free speech. The context that he said it was satire against the people he was saying it about. He wasn’t actually making a literal statement.”
Benjamin – who has almost one million followers on YouTube – reportedly sent the tweet in reply to Phillips in 2016 after she wrote: “People talking about raping me isn’t fun, but has become somewhat par for the course.”
On Sunday, Phillips – the MP for Birmingham Yardley – responded to Batten’s comments by tweeting:
In the interview with Marr, Batten went on to double down on his previous comments calling Islam a “death cult”.
“I do not like the ideology, the literalist interpretation of Islam,” he said.
“I know lots of people in this country who do take a literal interpretation of Islam. I think that’s the worrying thing.”
He also defended his proposal that mosque building should be banned in the UK.
“What I have said in the past is that we should not allow planning permission for mosques until they allow planning permission in Islamic countries for churches, Hindu temples and other forms of religion.”
His comments come after former UKIP leader Nigel Farage – who launched his own ‘Brexit Party’ on Friday – said the party had become related to “extremism” and “thuggery”.