Lord Kilclooney apologises for calling Kamala Harris 'the Indian' in a tweet

9 November 2020, 20:59

Lord Kilclooney cas come under fire for a tweet calling Kamala Harris 'the Indian'
Lord Kilclooney cas come under fire for a tweet calling Kamala Harris 'the Indian'. Picture: PA Images
Ewan Quayle

By Ewan Quayle

Lord Kilclooney has apologised after describing US Vice President-elect Kamala Harris as "the Indian" in a tweet.

The former Ulster Unionist Party (UUP) deputy leader, otherwise known as John Taylor, was ordered to apologise and retract his tweet after being accused of racism.

The crossbench peer, who previously deleted a tweet describing then-Irish Taoiseach Leo Varadkar as a "typical Indian", insisted there was "nothing racist" in his latest message.

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Ms Harris, a senator from California and the first Black and South Asian American woman to be elected Vice-President, was announced along with Joe Biden as the successor to Mike Pence and Donald Trump in the White House.

On Monday, Lord Kilclooney tweeted: "What happens if Biden moves on and the Indian becomes President. Who then becomes Vice President?"

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Later in the day the Lord Speaker, Lord Fowler, said the peer "should retract and apologise" after senior politicians said they would lodge complaints.

"This is an offensive way to refer to anyone, let alone a woman who has just made history. The comment is entirely unacceptable and has no place in British politics. I could not be clearer," Lord Fowler added.

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Conservative MP Simon Hoare, who is chairman of the Commons Northern Ireland affairs select committee, wrote that the message was "Bad. Rude. Racist. Appalling." and said he had submitted a formal complaint.

Labour's leader in the Lords, Baroness Smith, added: "I am so angry about this comment. It is despicable and beneath contempt, and totally unacceptable from anyone - but especially from someone in Parliament."

UUP leader Steve Aiken stressed the peer had not been a member of the party "for at least a decade" as he criticised the "reprehensible" remarks.

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"There is simply no excuse for it. He should delete what he has said and apologise. This isn't the first time he has done something like this, but it should be the last," Mr Aiken said.

Labour's Shadow Justice Secretary, David Lammy added to the criticism, saying: "She is called Kamala Harris. Please send this awful comment straight back to the dark ages."

Comedian Nish Kumar tweeted: "This guy is a life peer. What a country."

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By Monday afternoon, Lord Kilclooney was made to tweet: "Whilst Biden is proud to be Irish and Harris is rightly proud of her Indian background I certainly withdraw my reference to her as an Indian as it seems to have upset some people.

"I did not know her name and identified her with the term Indian. Most people understood. Racist NO."

The 82-year-old peer tried to justify the tweet by claiming that he did not know her name until three days ago - to the astonishment of others.

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