A serving Labour MP in the United Kingdom has been suspended by the party pending an investigation after claiming that Jewish people do not suffer racism but merely experience prejudice similar to redheads.
Diane Abbott, who was the first Black lawmaker in the U.K. parliament and is a close compatriot of former hard-left Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, offered the remarks in a letter to The Observer newspaper published on Sunday.
In her letter, titled “Racism is black and white,” Abbott admitted that minorities including Jewish people and the traveling community “undoubtedly experience prejudice,” but claimed this is not the same as racism.
“It is true that many types of white people with points of difference, such as redheads, can experience this prejudice,” she wrote.
“In pre-civil rights America, Irish people, Jewish people and travelers were not required to sit at the back of the bus. In apartheid South Africa, these groups were allowed to vote. And at the height of slavery, there were no white-seeming people manacled on the slave ships,” she added, stating that racism and prejudice are mistakenly “often used as if they are interchangeable.”
Labour described her comments as “deeply offensive and wrong,” and announced it was suspending the whip from Ms. Abbott who will now sit as an independent MP in the House of Commons.
She later backtracked on the remarks, tweeting to “apologize for any anguish caused,” and claiming that “racism takes many forms, and it is completely undeniable that Jewish people have suffered its monstrous effects.”
Abbott claimed the letter was an “initial draft” that was sent in error.
The comments have been roundly condemned by organizations including the Jewish Voice for Labour group and Friends, Families and Travellers who described it as “utterly inexcusable.”
It isn’t the first time Ms. Abbott has been in the spotlight for highly controversial remarks.
She has previously spoken out about the treatment of former ISIS bride Shamima Begum, who had her British citizenship revoked after fleeing London to join the Islamic death cult in Syria, describing Begum as a “desperate groomed teenager” and claiming there are “plenty of good reasons” to allow her to “return home.”
Abbott was also publicly chastised in November last year for suggesting the rape of a teenage boy at a hotel accommodating asylum seekers in northeast London “is what happens when you demonize migrants.”
The ally of Jeremy Corbyn was the former shadow home secretary during his time as leader of the opposition.