Peer Lord Kilclooney denies being racist by describing US vice president-elect Kamala Harris as ‘the Indian’ – insisting he ‘is very fond of India myself’
- Lord Kilclooney, 82, is the former deputy leader of the Ulster Unionist Party
- He previously deleted tweet calling Taoiseach Leo Varadkar a ‘typical Indian’
- Ms Harris is an American whose mother was from India and father from Jamaica
Lord Kilclooney, the former deputy leader of the Ulster Unionist Party (UUP), make the comment in a tweet about last week’s election this morning, sparking uproar.
A former top Unionist politician was at the centre of a racism storm today after describing US vice president elect Kamala Harris as ‘the Indian’.
Lord Kilclooney, the former deputy leader of the Ulster Unionist Party (UUP), made the comment in a tweet about last week’s election, sparking uproar.
Ms Harris, whose mother was from India and father from Jamaica, made history this weekend becoming the first black and Asian-American person to be elected to the second-highest office in the US.
Lord KilClooney, 82, who previously deleted a 2018 tweet describing then-Taoiseach Leo Varadkar as a ‘typical Indian’ after condemnation, insisted there was ‘nothing racist’ in his latest message.
This morning he tweeted: ‘What happens if Biden moves on and the Indian becomes President. Who then becomes Vice President?’
The Lord Speaker, Lord Fowler, said this afternoon that the peer should ‘retract and apologise’ for the remark.
‘This is an offensive way to refer to anyone, let alone a woman who has just made history,’ he said.
‘The comment is entirely unacceptable and has no place in British politics. I could not be clearer.’
Labour’s shadow justice secretary David Lammy added: ‘She is called Kamala Harris. Please send this awful comment straight back to the dark ages.’
Ms Harris, whose mother was from India and father from Jamaica, made history this weekend becoming the first black and Asian-American person to be elected to the second-highest office in the US
Labour’s shadow justice secretary David Lammy added: ‘She is called Kamala Harris (pictured with president-elect Biden). Please send this awful comment straight back to the dark ages’
Labour shadow minister Wes Streeting said ‘action must be taken’ over the peer’s tweet.
‘He did it before to Leo Varadkar and now he’s done it to Kamala Harris. This sort of racism would be unacceptable from anyone, but from a member of the House of Lords it beggars belief,’ Mr Streeting tweeted.
But Lord Kilclooney denied that his message was racist, saying: ‘The first thing is to get it in perspective, the criticism is minor, the support is massive – I’ve never had so many Twitter followers in one day, ever.
‘I’m very fond of India myself, I’m a member of the British India all-party group, I have two Indians (tenants) in my flats here in London and there’s nothing racist in it whatsoever.’
He justified his previous tweet about Mr Varadkar by saying ‘I didn’t know his name at the time’ but, asked if he will delete his latest message now he knows Ms Harris’s name, he said: ‘No, not indeed. Because she’s proud of her Indian background.’
The 82-year-old peer, who is no longer a member of the UUP, said that he did not try to find out her name online before writing the tweet.
Asked why he did not use a search engine before sending the message, he replied: ‘That’s not your concern.’
Ms Harris, the daughter of Jamaican and Indian immigrants, will become the highest-ranking woman to ever hold an elected office in the US when the Democrat is inaugurated on January 20.
In 2018, Lord Kilclooney tweeted ‘typical Indian’ in response to a message about criticism of Mr Varadkar, whose father is from India, during a visit to Northern Ireland.
The House of Lords has yet to comment.
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