LONDON — UKIP leader Paul Nuttall has taken his website offline after he was forced to admit that claims he made on it that he had lost “close personal friends” in the Hillsborough disaster, were false.
Nuttall’s website was “offline for maintenance” at the time of writing on Thursday morning after it emerged earlier this week that a blog published on there had falsely claimed that Nuttall had lost close friends in the 1989 disaster.
Nuttall was quizzed by Radio City Talk present David Easson about the claim during a show on Tuesday. Here’s part of the conversation, which you can watch in full here.
Easson: “It’s on your website.”
Nuttall: “I haven’t lost a close personal friend. I’ve lost someone who I know but I don’t know…”
Easson: “January nineteenth, 2012 on your own site. ‘Lost close personal friends”.” It’s on your website. It’s on your own website Paul.”
Nuttall: “I’m sorry. I haven’t lost anyone who’s a close personal friend but people I knew from the football and things like that.”
Easson: “I basically went through your website last night to search for Hillsborough and it’s Paul Nuttall MEP dot com. It’s your website.”
Nuttall: “I’m sorry about that but you know that’s something that I have put out. That is wrong.”
Easton: “Can you see where this goes with you being a politician? People will find these things and whether you believe that or not you’re gonna be shot at.”
Nuttall later apologised for the claim before UKIP released a press statement written by press officer Lynda Roughley who said she had written the 2012 blog post and offered to resign from the post.
In the press release, Roughley, a long-standing court reporter, said Nuttall is a man of “great integrity” and that she “could not be more sorry” for the distress it had caused. Nuttall has not accepted the offer of resignation.
The scandal could not have come at a worse time for Liverpool-born Nuttall, who is standing to be elected in next week’s Stoke-on-Trent Central by-election. The UKIP leader is hoping to take a seat that Labour has controlled since the 1950s but false claims about his involvement in the Hillsborough disaster has overshadowed his campaign and dominated headlines both in Stoke and nationwide.
Nuttall maintains that he was inside the Hillsborough football stadium when the tragedy unfolded, telling Easson on Tuesday: “I just want to make it perfectly clear. I was there on that day. I’ve got witnesses. People who will stand up in court and back me 100%. OK. It’s cruel and it’s nasty. It’s making out that my family is lying as well which is not fair or right.”
Margaret Aspinall, the chair of the Hillsborough Family Support Group, whose 18-year-old son died in the disaster, reacted to Nuttall’s admission with dismay, describing the false claim as “appalling” on Tuesday.
“There’s a lot of people who survived that day who did lose personal friends. It’s devastating for them because they’re still suffering and for the guy now to backtrack is appalling,” Aspinall said.
NEW: UKIP press officer Lynda Roughley says she wrote the blog containing Nuttall’s Hillsborough comments and has offered her resignation pic.twitter.com/eE279jwdaD
— Adam Payne (@adampayne26) February 14, 2017
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