Stanley Johnson‘s comment came during a TV appearance in which he defended his son’s against claims of dishonesty.
Presenter Joanna Gosling, standing in as host of the BBC’s Victoria Derbyshire programme, read out a tweet from a viewer comparing the prime minister to Pinocchio – the puppet character with a famous tendency to lie.
“Pinocchio? That requires a degree of literacy, which I think the great British public doesn’t necessarily have,” replied Mr Johnson.
Asked by Ms Gosling what he meant by the “pejorative” remark, the prime minister’s father added: “They couldn’t spell Pinocchio if they tried, I should have thought.”
The former Conservative MP then confronted the presenter: “Well, can you spell Pinocchio? Go on, have a go.”
In an attempt to clarify the remark, he added: “I was trying to say it in a humorous way; I think it is utterly absurd and wrong that you can read out on air a tweet coming in from one of your readers which calls the prime minister a liar. I think it’s amazing you can do that.”
Mr Johnson’s TV appearance came amid widespread ridicule of his son’s claim to have never told a lie during his political career.
The prime minister told ITV on Thursday: “I may have got things wrong, I may have been mistaken, but I’ve never tried to deceive people.”
But in 2004, Mr Johnson lost his position in former Tory leader Michael Howard’s shadow cabinet after it emerged he had lied about an extramarital affair. As a journalist before entering politics, he was also fired by The Times for fabricating a quote.
Ridiculing the prime minister, Liberal Democrat leader Jo Swinson said: “He was sacked twice for lying. So when he says he has never lied, he’s literally lying.”
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