John Cleese has defended comments he made about London, saying his words were “culturalist” rather than racist.
Mayor of London Sadiq Khan was among those who criticised Cleese after the veteran comedian said on Twitter that the capital “was not really an English city any more”.
In an attempt to explain his comment, the 79-year-old later said he thought it “legitimate to prefer one culture to another”.
I think it’s legitimate to prefer one culture to another
For example, I prefer cultures that do not tolerate female genital mutilation.
Will this will be considered racist by all those who hover, eagerly hoping that someone will offend them – on someone else’s behalf, naturally https://t.co/4WbZDFjs3o
— John Cleese (@JohnCleese) May 30, 2019
In a statement yesterday, Mr Khan said Cleese “sounds like he’s in character as Basil Fawlty” and added that “Londoners know that our diversity is our greatest strength”.
Author Caitlin Moran was among others who pointed out that Cleese lives on the Carribean island of Nevis rather than in London.
He referred to this in tweets, saying: “It might interest those people who seem to think my remarks about London are racist as opposed to culturalist, to consider that what I like about spending time in Nevis.
“Nevis has excellent race relations, a very well educated population, no sign of political correctness, no sign of Rupert Murdoch, conscientious lawyers, a relaxed and humorous life style [sic], a deep love of cricket, and a complete lack of knife crime.
“And, of course, wonderful weather.”
His original tweet has now been liked more than 36,000 times and retweeted more than 9,000 times.
Cleese has levelled similar accusations at London before.
In 2011, in an interview with Australian television, he said he loved “having different cultures around but when the parent culture kind of dissipates you’re left thinking ‘well, what’s going on?'”.
“I’m not sure what’s going on in Britain,” he said. “Let me say this, I don’t know what’s going on in London because London is no longer an English city and that’s how they got the Olympics.
“They said ‘we’re the most cosmopolitan city on Earth’ but it doesn’t feel English.”
Cleese rose to fame in the 1970s as part of surrealist comedy troupe Monty Python, alongside the likes of Eric Idle, Terry Jones and Michael Palin.
He also starred as Basil Fawlty in Fawlty Towers, which, earlier this year, was named the greatest British sitcom of all time by the Radio Times.