UNDER FIRE: Boris Johnson
CONSERVATIVE MP Boris Johnson has been criticised after claiming that US President Barack Obama has an “ancestral dislike” of the British Empire because he is a “part-Kenyan president”.
Johnson has been supported by Ukip leader Nigel Farage who said he believes Obama "bears a bit of a grudge" against the UK.
A number of high-profile MPs have subsequently accused him of “dog whistle” racism following his comment piece in The Sun newspaper where he criticised Obama's call for Britain to remain in the EU, calling it "downright hypocritical".
“Boris dismissing President Obama as "half-Kenyan" reflects the worst Tea Party rhetoric #offensive” wrote Labour veteran Diane Abbott.
The Shadow international development secretary suggested that Johnson was using the same type of anti-Obama language favoured by right-wingers in America who have spread conspiracy theories about whether he is a natural-born US citizen.
Responding to Johnson's comments, a spokesman for the Britain Stronger In Europe campaign said: "Desperate, shameful stuff from Boris mentioning Obama's Kenyan ancestry. Why does that matter, exactly?"
TARGET: Barack Obama
In his Sun column, Johnson who is one of the leading figures for the ‘Leave’ campaign refers to the removal of a bust of war time hero and former Prime Minister Sir Winston Churchill from the Oval Office when Obama became president.
"No-one was sure whether the president had himself been involved in the decision," he said.
"Some said it was a snub to Britain. Some said it was a symbol of the part-Kenyan president's ancestral dislike of the British Empire - of which Churchill had been such a fervent defender."
Stories about the removal of the Churchill bust were described by the White House in 2012 as "100% false".
"The bust is still in the White House. In the Residence. Outside the Treaty Room," a senior adviser said in a rebuttal.
Obama kicked off a three-day visit to the UK with an article in The Daily Telegraph, backing Britain's membership of the EU as anticipated.
Shadow chancellor John McDonnell tweeted: "Mask slips again. Boris part-Kenyan Obama comment is yet another example of dog whistle racism from senior Tories. He should withdraw it."
Sir Stephen Wall, Britain's former permanent representative to the EU, who is campaigning for a Remain vote, said: "Boris Johnson's comment implying the President of the United States is driven by his ancestral dislike of the British empire is demeaning to the debate.
"Using that type of language does not reflect Britain's standing in the world or the country we aspire to be."
Green Party MP Caroline Lucas added her voice to the criticism, tweeting: "Just appalling from Boris Johnson. No place in the #EUref debate for this kind of desperate bigotry."