Sarah Champion, Labour’s equalities minister, has issued a retraction over an article she wrote claiming British Pakistani men “are raping and exploiting white girls” - despite her aides saying they were “thrilled” with the piece after publication.
Five days after her article first appeared in The Sun newspaper, Ms Champion told The Independent the column should “not have gone out in my name”, alleging the article had been altered by the newspaper.
But her claim was quickly disputed, with a spokesperson for the newspaper adding: “Sarah Champion’s column, as it appeared on Friday, was approved by her team and her advisor twice contacted us thereafter to say she was “thrilled” with the piece and it “looked great”.
Ms Champion hit the headlines last week when she warned people were failing to tell the truth about child abuse because they were afraid of being called racist. It was “predominately Pakistani men” who were involved in such cases “time and time again” said the MP for Rotherham - a town where a notorious grooming gang was exposed.
But she then followed up her comments with a column in The Sun newspaper, under the provocative headline: “British Pakistani men ARE raping and exploiting white girls – and it’s time we faced up to it.”
“Britain has a problem with British Pakistani men raping and exploring white girls,” she wrote. “There. I said it.”
The column led to much anger being directed at Ms Champion and one of her colleagues describing her as “irresponsible” for making “blanket, radicalised, loaded statements” that would set up stigmatised Pakistani boys to fail. It also resulted in praise being heaped on the Labour MP in an incendiary column by Trevor Kavanagh in the newspaper for making it “acceptable to say Muslims are specific rather than a cultural problem.”
Now, Ms Champion claims she “did not write the headline or opening sentences” of the column, “which were stripped of any nuance about the complex issues of grooming gangs, which have exploited thousands in my constituency”.
“The article should not have have gone out in my name and I apologise that it did,” she said.
She continued: “A column appeared in my name in the The Sun last Friday. My aim was to try and open the debate about a very specific form of child abuse. However, The Sun decided to make the headline and opening sentences highly inflammatory and they could be taken to vilify an entire community on the basis of race, religion or country of origin.”
“The Sun followed the piece up with a repulsive and extreme Islamophobic column by Trevor Kavanagh. I am ashamed that he made positive reference to my own piece. We must always stand up against racism and prejudice, whatever form it takes.”
It comes after 100 cross-party MPs published a letter in The Independent over Mr Kavangh’s article – including Ms Champion – calling for action to be taken by the newspaper over the comment piece. The MPs claimed the article used “Nazi-like language”.
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