James O’Brien questions ‘believability’ of PM’s Black Lives Matter message

PUBLISHED: 16:18 09 June 2020 | UPDATED: 16:18 09 June 2020

James O'Brien said Boris Johnson had a 'track record' of using racist language; LBC

James O'Brien said Boris Johnson had a 'track record' of using racist language; LBC

Archant

A radio presenter has questioned the “believability” of Boris Johnson’s pre-recorded Black Lives Matter video message, accusing the prime minister of having a “track record” of using racist language.

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LBC presenter James O’Brien said he doubted the prime minister truly understood the plight of minority communities taking part in Black Lives Matter protests.

Johnson, who released a video acknowledging Black Lives Matter protestors across the country, said he “simply could not ignore the depth of emotion” of George Floyd’s death in the US and the “incontrovertible injustices” that it has shown for BAME communities here in the UK.

“We who lead or govern simply cannot ignore those feelings because in too many cases, I’m afraid, they will be founded on a cold reality,” Johnson said.

But O’Brien questioned the prime minister’s statement. “[I am] wondering whether it is possible to sustain that sort of sentiment when his track record is littered with examples of racist conduct or racist language,” he said.

He went no to list several of Johnson’s comments including one about the Queen’s state trips to Africa, calling local onlookers ‘piccaninnies’, and the use of a controversial quote to describe Barack Obama’s position on the United Kingdom.

“Barack Obama, some said - yeah, some massive racist said so why would you repeat it? - was a symbol of the part-Kenyan president’s ancestral dislike of the British Empire and on it goes.”

Asking listeners if he was being too critical, O’Brien said: “The horror of this question is of course I don’t know who would answer yes to that except people who think his claims of being opposed to racism are horribly undermined by his past conduct.”

O’Brien described Johnson’s supporters as “football hooligans who are going to be marching in favour of racism at the weekend”.

He also questioned counter-arguments to race relation debates in the UK, saying that people who may reference the grooming gangs scandal as “some sort of counter balance to this conversation.”

“Explain to me how cross you are with Boris Johnson for not coming out against Black Lives Matter,” he said.

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