Home Secretary Jacqui Smith will fight defamation proceedings launched against her by a US "shock jock" barred from entering the UK, the Home Office said today.
Radio host Michael Savage, real name Michael Weiner, is suing for defamation after he was "named and shamed" on a Home Office list of undesirables earlier this month.
Mr Savage's name figured on a list which also included former Ku Klux Klan grand wizard Stephen Donald Black, Hamas MP Unis Al-Astal, Jewish extremist Mike Guzovsky and American anti-gay Baptist pastor Fred Waldron Phelps.
The Home Office described Mr Savage, 67, as a "controversial daily radio host considered to be engaging in unacceptable behaviour by seeking to provoke others to serious criminal acts and fostering hatred which might lead to inter-community violence".
He has now instructed lawyers in London to sue Ms Smith for the "serious and damaging defamatory allegations".
The lawyers have written to the Home Secretary demanding "the payment of a substantial sum in damages to be agreed" and the publication of a press release to "include a retraction of the allegations".
They are also demanding a "personal apology" from Jacqui Smith and a "written undertaking from you and the Home Office not to repeat the allegations complained of", as well as "the payment of our client's legal costs".
They stress the matter is "extremely urgent as the false and defamatory material concerning our client has had enormous circulation both inside and outside the UK".
But the Home Office vowed to fight the demands, insisting the decision to ban Mr Savage was the right one.
A spokesman said: "As the Home Secretary has already said, he was excluded for engaging in unacceptable behaviour by making comments that might provoke others to serious criminal acts and foster hatred that might lead to inter-community violence.
"Any legal proceedings would be robustly defended; we stand by our decision to exclude this individual.
"Coming to the UK is a privilege that we refuse to extend to those who abuse our standards and values to undermine our way of life."
Mr Savage, a married father of two, hosts right-wing radio show The Savage Nation, one of the most popular talk shows in the US.
He said being named on the list had made him a target for attack, and insisted he had never had any plans to come the UK.
"I am living in fear and have had to employ security guards after being outrageously named on this list of terrorists and killers," he said.
"I have no idea what criminal acts they refer to in their press release. They have refused to explain, despite our requests.
"Maybe Jacqui Smith just plucked my name out of the hat because I'm controversial and white - to counter-balance all the Arabs named on her list.
"It is totally preposterous but it's deadly serious because she has made me a target.
"Now I want the ban lifted and my name removed from that list, I want a public apology from your Home Secretary and I want substantial damages.
"My lawyers have told me I have a very strong case for defamation."
Join our new commenting forum
Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies