- UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson has denied groping the thigh of a woman so hard that she flinched, while editor of the Spectator magazine.
- The journalist Charlotte Edwardes claims that Johnson groped both her and another woman at the lunch.
- A spokesman for the prime minister said “this allegation is untrue.”
- Johnson has previously boasted about touching another female colleague at the magazine on the behind.
- Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.
Boris Johnson has denied claims that he groped a female journalist “so hard she flinched” at a lunch more than 20 years ago.
Downing Street made the unusual step of issuing an on-record denial that the incident had ever taken place, with a Number 10 spokesman saying on Sunday afternoon: “This allegation is untrue.”
Charlotte Edwardes said on Monday that the prime minister, who was then editor of the Spectator, touched her leg at an event during a lunch held by the magazine in 1999, as well as that of another woman at the lunch.
Writing in the Sunday Times, Edwardes said: “Under the table I feel Johnson’s hand on my thigh.
“He gives it a squeeze. His hand is high up my leg and he has enough flesh beneath his fingers to make me sit suddenly upright.”
Edwardes was at the time a young newspaper journalist writing occasional articles for the Spectator.
She claimed to have told the “young woman” on Johnson’s other side about the incident after the “louche, loud, risqué” lunch.
The woman reportedly replied: “Oh God, he did exactly the same to me.”
Johnson was married to Marina Wheeler at the time, who he is currently in the process of divorcing from.
Asked about the claims on Sunday, the Health Secretary Matt Hancock said that Johnson was entitled to a “private life.”
However, he told Channel 4 News that “I know Charlotte well, and I entirely trust what she has to say.”
Following Johnson’s denial Edwardes tweeted that “If the prime minister doesn’t recollect the incident then clearly I have a better memory than he does.”
—Charlotte Edwardes (@chedwardes) September 29, 2019
Allegations of sexism
Johnson has repeatedly faced allegations of sexism throughout his career.
In 2005 he wrote about touching a female colleague during his time as editor of the Spectator.
In a farewell piece in the Spectator marking his exit as editor, Johnson offered the following advice to his successor.
“Once the fire is going well, you may find your eyes drifting to the lovely striped chesterfield across the room. Is it the right size, you wonder, for a snooze…?” he wrote.
“You come round in a panic, to find a lustrous pair of black eyes staring down at you. Relax. It’s only Kimberly [Quinn, then the Spectator’s publisher] with some helpful suggestions for boosting circulation.”
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