Thursday 08 May 2003
London Mayor Ken Livingstone has launched an astonishing attack on US President George W Bush, calling him "corrupt".
Mr Livingstone made his attack during an address to schoolchildren in a debate on the Iraq war.
He said he would get as much pleasure from Mr Bush being forced out of office as he had done from the downfall of former Iraq leader Saddam Hussein.
The outburst was immediately criticised by London politicians who fear a negative effect on the mayor's efforts to attract American tourists here.
Mr Livingstone was answering questions on the Iraq war and other subjects during a two-hour meeting with 200 schoolchildren at City Hall on Thursday morning.
After making a pointed reference to Mr Bush, he was asked by Channel 4 broadcaster Krishnan Guru-Murthy, who was chairing the meeting, to explain his making a personal attack on the US president when he disliked answering personal questions himself.
The mayor said: "I think George Bush is the most corrupt American president since Harding in the Twenties.
"He is not the legitimate president."
He later added: "This really is a completely unsupportable government and I look forward to it being overthrown as much as I looked forward to Saddam Hussein being overthrown."
Conservative mayoral candidate Steve Norris described Mr Livingstone's attack on President Bush as "utterly irresponsible".
"The red mist comes down and his judgement flies out of the window. He has no right whatever to insult President Bush," he said.
"He has every right to his own view but not to express it when he is mayor of this city."
But Mr Livingstone later played down notions his comments could have an effect on tourism.
The mayor said it was as ridiculous as thinking British tourists would be put off some holiday destinations because of the opinions held of Tony Blair by local politicians.
Asked about Mr Livingstone's comments, White House Press Secretary, Ari Fleischer, said: "First of all, I've never heard of the fellow. Second, I'm not going to dignify it with a response."
And in a statement, officials from the US embassy in London, said: "Mayor Livingstone's opinions about the United States are a matter of complete indifference to the American embassy, the American government and the American people."
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