The leader of UKIP has defended an election candidate who said they “wouldn’t even rape” Labour MP Jess Phillips.
Gerard Batten called the comment “satire” and praised Carl Benjamin, who was last week picked as an MEP candidate for the South West region.
Mr Benjamin had previously written in a tweet to Ms Philips: “I wouldn’t even rape you.”
Mr Batten defended the post, telling the BBC’s Andrew Marr Show: “I think this was satire.”
Describing the candidate as “a classical liberal”, Mr Batten said: “I don’t know the exact context of that and I certainly don’t condone any remarks like that but he is not a bad person as he’s being portrayed.
“He is a proponent of free speech. The context that he said it was satire against the people he was saying it about. He wasn’t actually making a literal statement.”
Mr Benjamin – a YouTuber with a large following – reportedly sent the tweet in 2016 when responding to Ms Phillips having written: “People talking about raping me isn’t fun, but has become somewhat par for the course.”
The Labour MP later said she received in excess of 600 rape threats in a night.
After Mr Batten’s defence, Ms Phillips said her husband had questioned: “Is this man satire?”
She told The Sun newspaper: “These people are deluded little boys who can’t stand up an argument with a woman without talking about rape and violence.”
UKIP won the most votes in 2014’s EU Parliament election – securing 24 of the UK’s 53 MEPs.
But there are just seven left now.
Former leader Nigel Farage is now running the Brexit Party, which will compete against UKIP at the European Parliament elections – if they take place.
The UK government has said they will go ahead if a divorce deal with the EU has not been ratified by parliament before polling day, which starts on 23 May.