Johnson branded racist over ‘people of colour’ subtitle gaffe

Boris Johnson (Photo: Andrew Matthews - WPA Pool/Getty Images).
Boris Johnson (Photo: Andrew Matthews - WPA Pool/Getty Images).

Britain’s prime minister Boris Johnson was mistakenly accused of racism on social media Friday (6) after he was misquoted in a video.

Multiple tweets shared hundreds of times accused the British leader of claiming he wanted to control the number of “people of colour” coming to the UK. However, the prime minister actually uttered the words “people of talent”.

“Vile,” said one tweet, which has since been deleted. “Make no mistake, this man is a racist”.

Many of the tweets linked to a video published Friday by British broadcaster Channel 4. The footage showed Johnson — who is fighting for re-election in the UK’s upcoming vote on December 12 — talking to a crowd in Derbyshire, England.

According to Channel 4’s subtitles, Johnson said, “I’m in favour of having people of colour come to this country, but I think we should have it democratically controlled”.

The apparent remarks caused outrage on Twitter, with the terms “people of colour” and “talent” trending in the UK on Friday.

However, the broadcaster later removed the video and admitted in a statement on Twitter that it had made a “mistake”.

“Our earlier tweet was a mistake. We misheard and we apologise,” it said.

International fact-checking project CrossCheckUK spotted a better quality version (4) of the video which makes it easier to hear what the prime minister is saying.

In the footage, Johnson clearly said “people of talent” and not “people of colour”.

Johnson’s Conservative party has been hit by allegations of racism and Islamophobia in recent weeks.

Last month, The Guardian published details of “inflammatory” social media posts from current and former Conservative councillors.

According to the British newspaper, comments included calling for mosques to be banned and referring to famine in Africa as “nature’s way of depopulation”.