Nigel Farage criticizes racist remarks by Reform UK worker. But he later called it a ‘stitch-up’

LONDON (AP) — Anti-immigration British politician Nigel Farage on Friday criticized a worker for his Reform UK party who suggested migrants crossing the English Channel in boats should be used for “target practice.”

But Farage later suggested that the episode had been a “stitch-up” by Reform’s opponents.

Party activist Andrew Parker was heard suggesting army recruits with guns should be posted to “just shoot” migrants landing on beaches, in recordings made by an undercover reporter from Channel 4. He also used a racial slur about Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, who is of Indian descent. Another campaign worker called the LGBT pride flag “degenerate.”

Reform UK said it had cut ties with the two men. Farage said he was “dismayed” by the comments and called some of the language “reprehensible.”

“The appalling sentiments expressed by some in these exchanges bear no relation to my own views, those of the vast majority of our supporters or Reform UK,” he said in a statement.

Sunak said the slur used by Parker “hurts and it makes me angry,” especially since his two daughters had to hear it. He said Farage “has some questions to answer.”

“As prime minister, but more importantly as a father of two young girls, it’s my duty to call out this corrosive and divisive behavior,” Sunak said Friday on the campaign trail in northeast England.

On Friday, Farage sought to cast doubt on the Channel 4 report after it emerged that Parker is an actor.

“Folks, this is the biggest stitch-up I’ve ever seen in my life,” he said in a video for supporters.

Parker confirmed that he’s an actor, but said that he volunteered for Reform UK, because he believes in its message.

Channel 4 News said it stood by its “rigorous and duly impartial journalism.”

“We met Mr. Parker for the first time at Reform UK party headquarters, where he was a Reform party canvasser,” the channel said in a statement.

Channel 4 News said that Parker was covertly filmed by an undercover investigator inside the Reform UK campaign and that no one was paid for the footage.

The party is running candidates in hundreds of seats for the U.K. election on July 4, aiming to siphon off voters from the dominant Conservative and Labour parties. It has disowned several candidates after media reported on their far-right ties or offensive comments.

Speaking at a campaign event on Thursday, Farage said that “one or two people let us down and we let them go.” But he said in other cases of criticized comments, “in most cases they’re just speaking like ordinary folk.”

Farage, a right-wing populist and ally of Donald Trump, shook up the election campaign when he announced in early June that he was running.

He has sought to focus the election debate on immigration, particularly the tens of thousands of people each year who try to reach the U.K. in small boats across the English Channel.

The migrants — mostly asylum-seekers fleeing poverty and conflict — account for a small portion of overall migration to Britain. But the struggle to stop the hazardous crossings has become an emotive political issue.

Opponents have long accused Farage of fanning racist attitudes toward migrants and condemned what they call his scapegoat rhetoric.

Farage, 60, is making his eighth attempt to be elected to Parliament after seven failed bids. Polls suggest he has a comfortable lead in the race to represent the seaside town of Clacton-on-Sea.

While Reform is likely to win only a handful of seats, at most, in the 650-seat House of Commons, Farage says his goal is to get a foothold and lead the “real” opposition to a Labour Party government if the Conservatives lose power after 14 years in office.

He is modeling his strategy on Canada’s Reform Party, which helped push that country’s Conservatives to the verge of wipeout in the 1993 election before reshaping Canadian conservative politics.

Copyright © 2024 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, written or redistributed.

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