Boris Johnsonhas apologized “for any offence caused” by his article describing Muslim women who wear a face-covering veil as looking like “letterboxes” and “bank robbers”.
The prime minister was confronted over the issue on ITV’s This Morning by Phillip Schofield and Holly Willoughby, who said Muslims had been hurt and offended by his remarks.
Johnson replied: “People dig out all sorts of articles… I’ve already said sorry for any offence caused and I say it again.”
The prime minister claimed his words had been taken out of context, and added: “What [the Conservative party] have to do is have an inquiry over xenophobia and prejudice of all kinds.”
The original article written in the Telegraph last year argued the burqa should not be banned even though it was “absolutely ridiculous that people should choose to go around looking like letterboxes”.
At the time, he repeatedly refused to apologize despite calls for him to do so from Theresa May, the then prime minister, and Brandon Lewis, the then chairman of the Conservative party.
A panel convened by the Conservative party later ruled that he should not be disciplined because he was “respectful” in the piece and had been using “satire”.
Johnson was also asked about writing that had ridiculed single mothers and their children, but he declined to apologise for this, saying: “I don’t think this is the time to talk about articles written quite a long time ago.”
The prime minister also used his appearance on the daytime television sofa to argue that some criminals, such as the London Bridge terror attacker, Usman Khan, were not capable of being rehabilitated.
Khan had served eight years in prison for his role in a plot to bomb the London Stock Exchange but was released automatically halfway through his sentence.
Asked if he should have been locked up permanently, the prime minister replied: “I think actually you must always try to rehabilitate people – you’ve always got to give people a chance…
“But there are some people, and I think probably this guy is one of them, who just are not capable of being changed and in his case the best thing for the public and for him was to keep him inside and it was wrong to have early release. ”