10 November 2020 10:31
A member of the House of Lords, the upper house of Britain's parliament, has sparked outrage and allegations of racism after referring to US Vice President-elect Kamala Harris as "the Indian" in a tweet Monday. Harris, the running mate of Democrat Joe Biden, made history in last week's election and is set to become the first woman, and the first Asian-American, to become US vice president. "What happens if Biden moves on and the Indian becomes President. Who then becomes Vice President?" wrote Lord John Kilclooney, 82, in a tweet that has since been deleted. Get The Times of Israel's Daily Edition by email and never miss our top stories Free Sign Up The comment stirred controversy and was condemned by the speaker of the House of Lords, Norman Fowler, who demanded a retraction and apology.
"This is an offensive way to refer to anyone, let alone a woman who has just made history," Fowler tweeted. "The comment is entirely unacceptable and has no place in British politics. I could not be clearer." The Labour Lords leader, Angela Smith, said the remark was "despicable and beneath contempt and totally unacceptable from anyone – but especially from someone in parliament," adding she would file an official complaint. As condemnations mounted from many in the UK government and parliament, Kilclooney withdrew his comment but drew even more fury by claiming he had not known Harris's name. "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," he tweeted. "I did not know her name and identified her with the term Indian. Most people understood. Racist NO." In the comments, he then said: "Never heard of her until three days ago!" However, Kilclooney had mentioned Harris's name in a separate tweet Monday about Israel and the Palestinians. The state of Israel must be recognised and defended as must the rights of Palestinians.Harris is right — Lord John Kilclooney (@KilclooneyJohn) November 9, 2020 "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 told the Press Association. It wasn't the first time Kilclooney has been accused of racism against politicians of Indian descent. In 2018, he called Ireland's prime minister Leo Varadkar a "typical Indian," saying later that had been a mistake.