Jeremy Hunt refers to racism as the 'r-word' when asked about Trump's racist comments

Tory leadership contender Jeremy Hunt has appeared on BBC News where he refused to comment on whether he believed that Donald Trump's recent comments about four congresswomen were racist.

The president has been widely condemned for telling the likes of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Ilhan Omar to 'go back to their own countries,' with acting prime minister Theresa May deeming the comments 'unacceptable'.

Both Hunt and Johnson echoed May's sentiments during the head-to-head debate on Monday but much like May, they have all stopped short on branding Trump's words as 'racist'.

Hunt has now doubled down on that stance. The current foreign secretary was asked by BBC News host Naga Munchetty if the president's comments were racist, to which he responded:

I've said I'm not going to answer that question and you have found one of the few questions in this campaign that I'm not going to answer and I'll tell you why.

I'm our diplomat in chief. I'm responsible for the transatlantic relationship. I happen to believe that it is the relationship that has done more to keep the world safe and secure than any other over the last 70 years. 

I absolutely, profoundly disagree with those comments. I have three half-Chinese children. I've said that my kids, who were born on the NHS and have British passports, if anyone told them to 'go back to China' I would be utterly appalled and find it totally offensive.

I totally condemn any politician that said those comments but I'm not going to use the 'r-word' because I do have to be responsible for that relationship between the UK and the USA and I think it would be damaging for that if I used it.

Munchetty replied by admitting that she was surprised to hear Hunt refer to racism as the 'r-word' and pointing out that he can be "diplomatic and call out racism at the same time".

Hunt replied:

Well, I think I have called out those comments for what they are, which is totally and utterly unacceptable and offensive but I'm not going to use the word that you are asking me to use for the reason I've just explained.

Hunt's failure to condemn Trump's attack on the congresswomen as racism, combined with the unusual use of the phrase the 'r-word', have seen the Tory leadership hopeful admonished on social media.

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