Boris Johnson used his Muslim great grandfather to defend himself after he was challenged over his comparison of veiled Muslim women to “letterboxes”.
He made the comments during the televised Conservative leadership debate in lieu of answering the question directly.
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.
His Muslim great grandfather doesn't change the fact that he has made alleged Islamophobic comments.
How does his Muslim ancestor, who was alive more than 100 years ago, help him understand Islamophobia in 2019?
Others thought it was shameless and embarrassing.
Another Twitter user pointed out his comments weren't just offensive - they had very real consequences to Muslims living in England.
Using that defence is like saying someone can't be racist because they have black friends.
People just cannot.
In fact, viewers found the Tory leaders' dip into identity politics inauthentic.