Dr Matt Taylor: Boris Johnson compares attacks on scientist to 'a scene from Mao's cultural revolution'

Taylor wept as he apologised last week for wearing a shirt branded ‘sexist’ by some critics

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The Independent Online

Boris Johnson has defended “blameless” Dr Matt Taylor, after he received online criticism for wearing a shirt described as “sexist”.

The scientist – part of the team behind the pioneering Rosetta missionwept as he apologised over the garment last week, which featured women wearing bondage outfits and brandishing guns.

He wore the shirt as he watched the European Space Agency's Philae lander successfully separate from the Rosetta spacecraft to land on a comet on Wednesday.

Johnson said he should have been crying with joy and relief that the mission had succeeded, not because “he felt he had sinned”.

“It was like something from the show trials of Stalin, or from the sobbing testimony of the enemies of Kim Il-sung, before they were taken away and shot,” wrote Johnson in his column for The Telegraph.

“It was like a scene from Mao’s cultural revolution when weeping intellectuals were forced to confess their crimes against the people.”

The Mayor of London admits that while the shirt may have been “a bit garish, a bit of an eyeful”, he is not a priest, but “a space scientist with a fine collection of tattoos, and if you are an extrovert space scientist, that is the kind of shirt that you are allowed to wear”.

Following Twitter criticism, Taylor broke down in tears at a press conference on Friday, as he apologised for his wardrobe choice.

Philae touched down after a 10-year, four billion-mile journey through space in an achievement hailed as one of the greatest in science.

“The shirt I wore this week - I made a big mistake and I offended many people. And I'm very sorry about this,” he said.

Johnson asserted that Taylor should be applauded for his success rather than derided.

He also suggested that his critics visit the National Gallery and “look at the Rokeby Venus by Velázquez. Or look at the stuff by Rubens”.

“Are we saying that these glorious images should be torn from the walls?” he continued.

“What are we all - a bunch of Islamist maniacs who think any representation of the human form is an offence against God? This is the 21st century, for goodness’ sake. And if you ask yourself why so few have come to the defence of the scientist, the answer is that no one dares.

“Dr Taylor deserves the applause of our country, and those who bash him should hang their own heads and apologise.”