British Prime Minister Boris Johnson stunned observers Thursday when he insisted in a TV interview that he had never lied in his political career.
“I’ve never tried to deceive the public, and I’ve always tried to be absolutely frank,” he said in an interview on ITV News.
“I may have got things wrong, I may have been mistaken, but I’ve never tried to deceive people about the way I see things.”
“Can you look me in the eye and tell me you haven’t lied in your political career?” asked interviewer Paul Brand.
Johnson responded: “Absolutely not. Absolutely not” — apparently meaning he can look Brand in the eye and say he “absolutely” has not lied.
Earlier this month, British journalist Peter Oborne wrote: “I have been a political reporter for almost three decades and have never encountered a senior British politician who lies and fabricates so regularly, so shamelessly and so systematically as Boris Johnson.”
Johnson has been widely criticized for lying — using “Donald Trump’s playbook” — and the media has been criticized for failing to call him out on it. Johnson’s claims, for example, that his administration is building 40 new hospitals and that 20,000 more police officers are on the streets fighting crime have been shot down by the independent fact-checking organization Full Fact. He repeatedly mischaracterizes the positions of Labor leader Jeremy Corbin, who is seeking to unseat Johnson in December. He was sacked from a minister’s role in 2004 by then-Conservative leader Michael Howard for lying about an affair.
Johnson owned up Thursday to possibly causing “offense” — but not to any deception.
“I’m not going to pretend that in my political career I have not said or done things that have, you know, caused offense, that I haven’t made mistakes,” Johnson said. “I’ve certainly made mistakes.”