A Ukip MEP has hit back at the publication of an interview with him that he claims is “packed with deliberate and defamatory lies”.
Roger Helmer, who represents the East Midlands in the European parliament, was interviewed by the Mail on Sunday’s political editor, Simon Walters, ahead of the Newark by-election on Thursday, in which he hopes to win Ukip’s first Commons seat.
The article detailed Mr Helmer’s apparent views on immigration, homosexuality, paedophilia and racism – but the MEP has said “the piece bore little or no relation to our interview”.
Asked about his views on gays and homophobia, Mr Helmer told the Mail on Sunday: “Phobia is well defined in psychiatry - get a definition of it. We [Ukip] don’t deny there’s prejudice against minorities, and we condemn it.
“However, it isn’t a phobia. When people say ‘we support traditional marriage’, Stonewall says, ‘Homophobia, homophobia’. It’s a perfectly respectable position to take, it doesn’t require abuse and isn’t a phobia.”
And he apparently went on to suggest that the NHS should offer “cures” for homosexuals.
“One person is unhappy with their physical sex and wants to change it and we say, ‘OK you can do it’.
“‘You have a homosexual who says, ‘I’m homosexual, actually I’d rather be straight, is there a way of fixing it?’
“We say to the person who wants to change from a man to a woman or vice versa, ‘Please do that on the NHS’.
"We say to this guy, ‘That’s wicked, you’re not allowed to think about it’.
“I don’t know if homeopathy works or not, but I will defend the right of anyone who believes it works to try it.”
However, Mr Helmer said the comment reported as his call for “gay cures on the NHS” was “a deliberate and defamatory lie”.
In a letter addressed to Mr Walters and published on his blog, Mr Helmer wrote: “I said no such thing. You have deliberately and knowingly published a false and defamatory statement a few days ahead of a critical by-election, with the prima facie objective of influencing the outcome of that election. I understand that this represents an offence under electoral law.”
He went on: “The question arose because of a minor furore in the media three years ago over therapists and/or religious groups who claimed to be able to reverse an individual’s sexual orientation. There was a great deal of strident and aggressive criticism from the gay lobby at the time, both against those offering such ‘treatment’, and against individuals who sought it.
“I felt that this criticism was deeply illiberal, and that if an individual believes that a course of treatment would help him, or might help him, then in a free country he should be entitled to pursue it.
“I also made a comparison with homeopathy, another therapy about whose efficacy there is widespread scepticism. I don’t know whether a person’s sexual orientation can be changed, and I don’t know if homeopathy works. In both cases I doubt it. But as a libertarian I defend the right of those who think either might work to engage with them.
“Let’s be clear: I have never said that homosexuality is ‘an illness’, or that it can be 'cured'. I have never asserted that homosexuals can be “turned”. I have never advocated ‘gay cures’.”
And Mr Helmer added that he did not believe any potential treatment should be offered on the NHS.
He said: “In particular I would vehemently oppose any move to offer 'gay cures' on the NHS. No treatment should be offered on the NHS unless it is of proven clinical efficacy and demonstrable cost-effectiveness.
“I am not aware of any proposal to offer 'gay cures' on the NHS - this appears to be a figment of your imagination. But if there were any such proposal, I should oppose it robustly. Your suggestion that I 'called for gay cures on the NHS' is a downright and preposterous lie, and a deliberate attempt to damage my reputation.”
Mr Helmer did not respond to other comments of his published by the Mail on Sunday.
Talking about the repatriation of immigrants he told the newspaper: “If someone says, ‘I came here, gave it a try, don’t like it, can’t stand the weather, I’d really like to go back to Pakistan but I can’t afford to go’, I’d have no objection to taxpayers’ money being used to assist them – but not forcibly.”
And asked if the idea of a black or Muslim Prime Minster of the UK would upset him, he said: “I wouldn’t panic. We had a woman Prime Minister and I rather liked that!”
Mr Helmer also described the Catholic Church as “systemically paedophile”, but said the Pope was probably a “nice man”.
“It’s fact. I’m sure the Pope is a nice man. If a few people in the Met Police are racist, people say it is institutionally racist; if hundreds of Catholic priests are paedophiles and I say they’re paedophile, it’s terrible.”
In his blog post, Mr Helmer said he had answered the newspaper’s questions “clearly and honestly”.
He said: “You have not written up our interview at all. You have simply written up your own preconceived stereotype of what a UKIP candidate might be like, and you have totally ignored what I actually said to you. This is nothing less than a deliberate hatchet job.”
The Independent has contacted Simon Walters for a repsonse.
Register for free to continue reading
Registration is a free and easy way to support our truly independent journalism
By registering, you will also enjoy limited access to Premium articles, exclusive newsletters, commenting, and virtual events with our leading journalists
Already have an account? sign in
Join our new commenting forum
Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies