Brexit

Reality Check: Has Boris Johnson been taken out of context?

Boris Johnson saying: I think most people who read these things in their proper context can see exactly what was intended.

The claim: Boris Johnson says his remarks have been taken out of context.

Reality Check verdict: The comment about President Obama looks slightly better with full context. The remarks about Hillary Clinton do not.

Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson gave a joint press conference on Tuesday with US Secretary of State John Kerry.

An American journalist asked him about some of his comments about President Barack Obama and Democrat presidential candidate Hillary Clinton.

"There is such a rich thesaurus now of things that I have said that have been, one way or another, through what alchemy I do not know, somehow misconstrued, that it would really take me too long to engage in a full global itinerary of apology to all concerned," he said.

"I think most people who read these things in their proper context can see exactly what was intended."

Let's have a look at what the US journalist accused Mr Johnson of having said.


The claim: Mr Johnson said, wrongly, that President Obama did not want a bust of Churchill in the White House and harboured a part-Kenyan's "ancestral dislike for the British Empire".

The reality: In an article in the Sun newspaper, Mr Johnson says a bust of Winston Churchill was removed from the Oval Office and returned to the British Embassy on the day President Obama moved in, although he does add: "No-one was sure whether the president had himself been involved in the decision."

But, referring to an article in the Daily Telegraph, Mr Johnson then says: "Some said it was a snub to Britain. Some said it was a symbol of the part-Kenyan president's ancestral dislike of the British Empire - of which Churchill had been such a fervent defender."

In-between the publication of the Daily Telegraph article and that of the one in the Sun, the White House said a bust of Winston Churchill had been prominently displayed outside the Treaty Room of the White House residence since the 1960s.

But a copy of that bust, lent by then Prime Minister Tony Blair to then US President George W Bush while the original was undergoing repair, had been removed from the Oval Office.

"On 20 January 2009, inauguration day, all of the art lent specifically for President Bush's Oval Office was removed by the curator's office, as is common practice at the end of every presidency," it said.


The claim: Mr Johnson described Hillary Clinton as someone with "dyed blonde hair and pouty lips and a steely blue stare like the sadistic nurse in a mental hospital" and likened her to Lady Macbeth.

The reality: In an article in the Daily Telegraph, Mr Johnson says: "She's got dyed blonde hair and pouty lips, and a steely blue stare, like a sadistic nurse in a mental hospital.

"How could I possibly emit the merest peep of support for a woman who seems to have acted out the role of first lady, from 1993 to 2000, like a mixture between Cherie Blair and Lady Macbeth, stamping her heel, bawling out subordinates and frisbeeing ashtrays at her erring husband?"

The full article is actually an argument that Mrs Clinton should be president because Bill Clinton would make such a good "first husband".

But the support for her candidacy might not be considered be enough context to overcome the obvious insults.


Read more: The facts behind claims about our relationship with the EU


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