Boris Johnson and Jeremy Hunt have joined Theresa May in condemning Donald Trump’s tweets suggesting four Democratic congresswomen should “go back and help fix” their “broken and crime-infested” countries, but all held back from branding him a racist.
The two Conservative leadership hopefuls made clear their criticism of Trump in a Sun and TalkRadio leadership debate, echoing May’s comments that they were “completely unacceptable”.
Asked for his views, Johnson, the runaway favourite to succeed May as prime minister next week, said: “Relations between the UK and US are incredibly important.
But if you are the leader of a great multiracial, multicultural country you simply cannot use that kind of language about sending people back to where they came from. It went out decades and decades ago and thank heavens for that. It’s totally unacceptable.”
Pressed on whether he agreed with May, Hunt said: “Yes I do. I have three half-Chinese children and if anyone ever said to them, ‘Go back to China’ I would be utterly appalled. It is totally un-British to do that. So I hope that would never happen in this country.”
They were each asked whether Trump should be called a racist because of his comments but Hunt, the foreign secretary, and Johnson, a former foreign secretary, both declined to use that term.
Earlier, May took the unusual step of commenting on US domestic politics after Trump made reference to the outspoken Democratic congresswomen, only one of whom is foreign-born.
The president’s remarks were attacked as explicitly racist towards Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Ayanna Pressley, Rashida Tlaib and Ilhan Omar, who was born in Somalia.
The speaker of the US House of Representatives, Nancy Pelosi, denounced Trump’s “xenophobic comments meant to divide our nation”, while the four congresswomen accused him of trying to appeal to white nationalists. Read more