Boris Johnson defends calling gay men ‘bumboys’ claiming comments were ‘wholly satirical’

Ellen Stewart June 30, 2019
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Boris Johnson is frontrunner to become the next British Prime Minister. (NIKLAS HALLE'N/AFP/Getty)

Conservative party leader frontrunner, Boris Johnson has claimed that offensive comments he made about black people and gay men were “wholly satirical.”

He told Sky News that his comments had been “wrenched out of context” and that in some cases were used to imply “the opposite” of what he intended.

“I think if you look at each of every one of those articles… the quotations have been wrenched out of context in some cases to mean the opposite of what I intended,” Johnson said.

He added that comments made in previous articles referring to African people as having “watermelon smiles” and gay men as “bumboys” had been made in “a wholly satirical way.”

He was quizzed over a 2002 Telegraph column in which he referred to a visit to Africa by then prime minister Tony Blair; as well as a 1998 column — also in the Telegraph — about the resignation of former Labour Business Secretary Peter Mandelson who is gay.

Mayor of London Boris Johnson wears a pink stetson hat at the Gay Pride parade on July 5,
Mayor of London Boris Johnson wears a pink stetson hat at the city’s Pride parade on July 5, 2008. (Peter Macdiarmid/Getty)

In the 2002 piece, Johnson wrote, “It is said that the Queen has come to love the Commonwealth, partly because it supplies her with regular cheering crowds of flag-waving piccaninnies.”

He also referred to African people as having “watermelon smiles.”

In 1998 he reacted to Mandelson’s resignation, writing, that the announcement would lead to the blubbing of “tank-topped bumboys” in “the Ministry of Sound” nightclub, and “the soft-lit Soho drinking clubs frequented by Mandy and his pals.”

During the televised interview, Sky’s Sophie Ridge, pushed Johnson harder, asking: “It sounds a little bit like someone who just won’t take responsibility…

“You won’t take responsibility for what you write in your columns, it was just ‘wrenched out of context’. I mean is that a quality we would want in a Prime Minister?”

He replied: “On the contrary, I take full responsibility for everything I’ve said.”


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