Viewers have accused the Tory leadership hopeful of using his Muslim heritage to dodge the issue.
BBC host Emily Maitlis, along with an imam who appeared in a video call during the debate, brought up his past comments about Muslim women who wear niqab looking like "letterboxes and bank robbers". The journalist asked him: “Do you accept your words have consequences?”
Rather than directly addressing Islamophobia, he broadly acknowledged that his “words may have given offence over the last 20 or 30 years” and accused people of taking his words out of his articles and "escalating” them".
Yes of course and insofar as my words have given offence over the last 20 or 30 years when I’ve been a journalist and people have taken those words out of my articles and escalated them.
Of course I’m sorry for the offence that they have caused.
And then he evoked his Muslim great grandfather.
But I would just say this to our friend from Bristol: When my Muslim great grandfather came to this country in fear of his life in 1912, he did so because he knew it was a place that was a beacon of generosity and openness and a willingness to welcome people from around the world.
And if I am prime minister I will ensure that that is the way our country acts and behaves.
Viewers accused him of "playing the 'I had a Muslim great grandfather'" card.
.@BorisJohnson "in so far my words have given offence over the past 20 or 30 years I of course apologise" He then p… https://t.co/IranjGiqLd