Boris Johnson, the Conservative Party leadership hopeful who is widely expected to become Britain’s Prime Minister next week, has described US President Donald Trump’s racist tweets attacking four congresswoman as “totally unacceptable.”
Asked about the President’s comments in a debate on Monday against his challenger for the post, Jeremy Hunt, Johnson said he “can’t understand” how an American leader would use such language — but stopped short of calling the attack racist.
Trump told four nonwhite Democratic congresswomen on Sunday that they should “go back and help fix the totally broken and crime infested places from which they came,” even though three of the four were born in the US and the fourth is a naturalized citizen.
In response, the four lawmakers made clear in a Monday news conference that they’re not going anywhere. “I want to tell children across this country is that no matter what the President says, this country belongs to you,” said Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York. “And it belongs to everyone and today that notion, that very notion was challenged.”
“If you’re the leader of a great multiracial, multicultural society you simply cannot use that kind of language about sending people back to where they came from,” Johnson said of Trump’s tweets during the UK leadership debate.
“That went out decades and decades ago and thank heavens for that,” he added. “I simply can’t understand how a leader of that country could come to say it.”
Barring a stunning result when the results of the Conservative leadership are announced, the overwhelming frontrunner Johnson is expected to take over from Theresa May as Prime Minister next week.
Trump has previously praised Johnson as a friend and said he would make a “great Prime Minister,” even while May was in office.
May, who has sparred with Trump on a number of occasions but attempted to maintain cordial relations with the President, had earlier also called out Trump’s tweets.
“The language that was used to refer to these women was completely unacceptable,” her office told CNN.
Johnson said during the debate that relations between his would-be administration and the United States are “incredibly important.” But asked if he thought Trump’s tweets were racist, he said: “I’ve said what I said, I think it was totally unacceptable.”
When pressed on the question, he added: “You can take from what I’ve said what I think about President Trump’s remark.” His rival Hunt, who also condemned Trump’s tweets, agreed that calling them racist would not “help the situation.”
“I can understand how many people in this country would want politicians like me to use those words, and would feel that sentiment,” he added.