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A Conservative Member of Parliament (MP) was asked to step down from his senior position at a charity after saying that two of the Tory party's most senior Asian ministers “all look the same” to him.
What happened: James Gray, the MP for North Wiltshire, England, incorrectly introduced Nadhim Zahawi, the former minister for COVID vaccine deployment, as the health secretary at a Parliament event on Sept. 8, where officials honored volunteers in the COVID-19 vaccine program, according to The Guardian. The actual health secretary is Sajid Javid.
After being corrected, Gray allegedly told the audience, “They all look the same to me.” Speaking to Daily Mail, a witness said Zahawi pulled Gray to the side to have a private conversation following the controversial comment.
A source also allegedly said that Gray acknowledged the comment, saying it was inappropriate in a “low-key, jokey way.” The source added that the guests at the event were upset: “A lot of people at the event – who were all working hard to roll the vaccine out – have been talking about what had happened."
The aftermath: The St. John Ambulance — where Gray has been a commander of the Order of St. John since September 2020 — had reportedly asked him to stand down from all of his charity activities after his comments surfaced online, which he later denied.
“St John does not tolerate racism in any way, shape or form,” the charity said. “We spoke with James Gray following the event about our values as an open, inclusive and progressive charity.”
After the incident, a spokeswoman from the Conservative Party said, “These comments were misjudged. We do not tolerate racism or discrimination of any kind.”
In a statement to Daily Mail, Gray said he did not make the controversial comment at the event, but he admitted he mixed up Zahawi and Javid during the introduction. Gray also claimed the two men are long-term friends of his.
“The idea that this is racist is completely untrue,” Gray added. “Nadhim did not speak to me about it afterward, he spoke to a lot of people.”
Days after the comment, Gray reportedly posted a picture of him and Zahawi together, along with SJA chief exec Martin Houghton-Brown. It was not made clear if this was taken before or after the Parliament event.
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