Johnson and Hunt suggest Jeremy Corbyn is anti-Semitic over Labour crisis
The Tory leadership contenders refused to call Donald Trump racist after he told four congresswomen of colour to go back to their countries.
Boris Johnson and Jeremy Hunt have both suggested Jeremy Corbyn is anti-Semitic after Labour faced increased criticism over its handling of the crisis within the party.
But the pair vying to be the next prime minister both declined to label US President Donald Trump racist for telling four congresswomen of colour to go back to their “broken and crime infested” countries.
The Tory leadership contenders also discussed their own stances towards immigration in what was expected to be their final head-to-head debate of the race.
Mr Johnson refused to commit to reduce net immigration after Brexit.
Both were asked whether they think the Labour leader is personally anti-Semitic in the wake of a damning report by BBC’s Panorama.
Mr Johnson said: “I think by condoning anti-Semitism in the way he does, I am afraid he is effectively culpable of that vice.”
Asked the same question at the event hosted by The Sun and talkRadio, Foreign Secretary Mr Hunt replied: “Unfortunately, he may be.”
A Labour spokesman said: “Jeremy Corbyn is implacably opposed to anti-Semitism in all its forms and has campaigned against it throughout his life.
“This baseless political attack comes from a politician whose Islamophobic comments were directly linked to hate crimes targeted at Muslim women, approved an article that claimed black people have lower IQs and tonight refused to apologise for describing gay men as ‘tank-topped bum boys’.”
Last week, the BBC’s investigative aired allegations from former officials that senior Labour figures had interfered with the disciplinary process investigating allegations of anti-Jewish racism.
Labour has strongly denied the claims and criticised the BBC.
Both Tory candidates were quick to condemn the US President’s remarks, which have widely been criticised as racist, and agreed with Theresa May’s assessment that they were “completely unacceptable”.
Mr Trump had criticised the congresswomen and suggested “why don’t they go back and help fix the totally broken and crime infested places from which they came?”.
The president, who doubled down on the comments on Monday, did not name the four but they are interpreted as being three US-born women and one who was born in Somalia.
Mr Johnson has so far been cautious in criticising Mr Trump and was accused of throwing Sir Kim Darroch “under the bus” by refusing to back Britain’s ambassador to the US before he resigned over a row about his leaked comments.
On Monday, he said: “If you are 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.”
But he was twice pressed on whether the comments were racist.
“You can take from what I said what I think about President Trump’s words,” he replied.
Mr Hunt said he would be “utterly appalled” if anyone made similar remarks to his three half-Chinese children and said the words are “totally offensive”, but also declined to call the words racist.
“I think that, look I’m Foreign Secretary, this is a president of a country which happens to be our closest ally and so it is not going to help the situation to use that kind of language about the president of the United States,” he said.
They also both said they would not back Mr Trump in a war with Iran at this moment in time.
The candidates agreed that Brexit was a message to “control” immigration but Mr Johnson was unable to say how he would reduce net levels.
“I’m not going to get into some numbers game with you,” he said when quizzed on the issue.
Mr Hunt was able to point to his time as health secretary to describe how he would bring down numbers.
“It’s boosting the education and skills levels of our own people that’s the right way to do it,” he said.
Dominic Raab insisted Mr Johnson has a “clear plan” for immigration.
He told PA after the debate: “I think, given that public trust has been eroded in the target that we have had and failed to meet, it is right to be just a bit careful about setting a precise target in the middle of a leadership contest debate.”
Tory members are currently voting for their next leader, with the victor to be announced on July 23. The following day they will be sworn in as prime minister.
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