Tory deputy chairwoman Helen Whately has called Donald Trump’s comments on women “really unhelpful and wrong”, as she defended going to his inauguration.
As the row grows over the invitation for the US president to come to the UK for a state visit in June, she said it was right to maintain a “good relationship” with him and emphasised the “importance of the office” over his personality.
Appearing on Sky News’ Sophy Ridge On Sunday, she was asked about Mr Trump calling women “fat slobs and pigs”.
Ms Whately, who is also the Conservative Party’s vice chairwoman for women, said: “Yes, I don’t like some of the things he’s said about women, and I think that rhetoric is really unhelpful and wrong, and it suggests an attitude towards women that I have no support for. So I don’t like seeing that.”
She was also asked about a photo she posted on social media in January 2017 from Mr Trump’s presidential inauguration ceremony in Washington DC, after facing criticism for attending.
Incredible to be in Washington for Presidential inauguration as Conservative parliamentary representative pic.twitter.com/9upQLY7gGT
— Helen Whately (@Helen_Whately) January 21, 2017
The MP for Faversham and Mid Kent said she was asked to go as a representative of the Conservative Party, and said it was “an interesting thing to go along to”, to listen to the mood of the American people, saying people told her they voted for Mr Trump because they “felt nobody was listening to them”.
But she added she was “not particularly” a fan of the man himself, saying she had “more mixed feelings” about him personally.
“But I recognise that overall, he is President of the United States of America, and we have to recognise the importance of that office, the importance of America as a country we have such a strong relationship with; security relationship, trade relationship, and it’s really important to have that relationship,” she added.
“Also, to have conversations about things we really care about like climate change, to try and influence President Trump to do his part on that.”
The comments came after a number of senior politicians rejected an invitation to a state banquet with Mr Trump during his upcoming visit, including the SNP’s Westminster leader Ian Blackford.
Speaking to the same programme he explained his decision, saying: “Well I think it’s very important that we show due respect to the people of America and the office of the presidency itself.
“But of course when you look at what President Trump has been doing, the way that he’s behaved, the way he’s behaved in a misogynistic manner, the way that he has trampled over the rights of minorities, the racist way in which he’s behaved, it simply wouldn’t be the right thing to lay out the red carpet and to sit down on the basis of his state dinner and have a pleasant evening with the President of the United States.”
Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn has also said he will not attend the proposed dinner at Buckingham Palace, but has been accused of hypocrisy after attending a similar event when the Chinese president Xi Jinping came to Britain in 2015 despite that country’s human rights record.
Shadow local government secretary Andrew Gwynne defended him on the BBC’s Andrew Marr Show, saying: “And of course when he met President Xi he raised with him directly the issues of those human rights abuses in China and he was absolutely right to do so.
“Look, I think that President Trump is more than welcome to come to the United Kingdom to commemorate those Second World War commemorations that he will be here for, but whether it’s appropriate to roll out the red carpet with all the pomp and ceremony, given his attitudes towards women, towards people of different races and religions, I think that Jeremy was right to make the decision that he has.”
It comes after reports today that during the planned state visit Boris Johnson could be granted a private audience with Mr Trump.
The Sunday Times is reporting that friends of the US president say he is eager to meet the former foreign secretary, and may invite him to a private dinner party at Winfield House, the US ambassador’s residence in London, with Nigel Farage another potential guest.
A Government source told the newspaper: “There are fears within Government circles about any potential meeting with Boris Johnson so the timetable is being scrutinised to limit the opportunities he has to do his own thing.”