Boris Johnson refuses to apologise for ‘tank-topped bum boys’ jibe


Prime Minister Boris Johnson has once again refused to apologise for referring to gay people as “tank-topped bum boys.”

The leader was challenged during a BBC Question Time Leaders’ special on Friday evening about his use of racist and homophobic slurs during his work as a newspaper columnist.

Johnson has repeatedly rejected calls to apologise for referring to Muslim women as “letterboxes,” black people as “piccaninnies” with “watermelon smiles,” and gay men as “tank-topped bum boys.”

The quotes were once again put to him by Fiona Bruce after an audience member asked him to apologise for contributing to “racist rhetoric.”

Boris Johnson defends his use of slurs

Johnson said: “I’ve written many millions of words in my time as a journalist, and I’ve never intended, genuinely, to cause hurt or pain to anybody. That is my intention.”

He added:  “If you go through all my articles with a fine tooth comb and take out individual phrases, there is no doubt you can find things that can be made to seem offensive. That is, of course… I understand that.”

Johnson ignored questions from Fiona Bruce about whether the term “bum boys” is offensive, instead addressing his “letterboxes” comment.

He said: “I defend my right to speak out, and I do defend my right… if you actually read the piece, what I was really doing, was mounting a strong liberal defence of the right of women in this country to wear what they choose.”

Asked if he would apologise, he said: “I’ve just got to get back to my fundamental point. I’ve always stood up for gender equality.”

Boris Johnson has never apologised for anti-LGBT comments.

Johnson has never apologised for his history of anti-LGBT+ remarks, which include attacking “Labour’s appalling agenda, encouraging the teaching of homosexuality in schools” in a 2000 Spectator column.

Mr Johnson deployed the homophobic slurs and innuendo in a 1998 column about the resignation of Peter Mandelson, who had long been the subject of rumours about his sexuality.

Boris Johnson appeared on BBC Question Time ahead of the December 12 election
Boris Johnson appeared on BBC Question Time ahead of the December 12 election

He wrote: “Weep, O ye shirt-makers of Jermyn Street, ye Cool Brittannia tailors and whatever exists of human finer feeling. In the Ministry of Sound, the tank-topped bumboys blub into their plis.

“In the delicatessens of Elgin Crescent, the sawdust is sodden with tears. For months, years, Carla Powell will go into mourning, her plumage is black at night, For Mandy is dead, dead ere his prime!”

And in a 2001 book, he wrote of same-sex marriage: “If gay marriage was OK – and I was uncertain on the issue – then I saw no reason in principle why a union should not be consecrated between three men, as well as two men, or indeed three men and a dog.”

While serving as Mayor of London, Johnson had quipped about gay men taking their husbands “up the Arcelor,” a reference to the ArcelorMittal observation tower in London’s Olympic Park.

When he became prime minister, Johnson faced a call to apologise from his own party’s LGBT+ group. He did not respond.


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