Ukip leader Gerard Batten has described a candidate’s rape tweet to MP Jess Phillips as “satire”, and defended his own belief that Islam is a “death cult”.
Appearing on The Andrew Marr Show, Mr Batten was pressed about a tweet sent by Carl Benjamin - who was announced as an MEP candidate for Ukip in the South West this week - to Ms Phillips in 2016 in which he said "I wouldn't even rape you".
Mr Batten defended the tweet, saying: "I think this was satire.”
Describing the candidate as “a classical liberal”, Mr Batten said: “I don’t know the exact context of that and I certainly don’t condone any remarks like that but he is not a bad person as he’s being portrayed.
“He is a proponent of free speech.
"The context that he said it was satire against the people he was saying it about.
"He wasn’t actually making a literal statement.”
After receiving the tweet, Ms Phillips later said she received in excess of 600 rape threats in a night.
Responding to the Sunday morning television programme, Ms Phillips said she had not even watched it
The Labour MP for Birmingham Yardley added that it was right for the issue to be covered on television, and continued that her husband has questioned whether Mr Batten was a "satire".
After Batten’s defence, Ms Phillips said her husband had questioned: “Is this man satire?”
Mr Benjamin - a YouTuber who calls himself Sargon of Akkad after the ruler of a Mesopotamian empire, has more than 940,000 followers - first became known for his anti-feminist commentary, and has also expressed controversial opinions on immigration, race and other issues.
During the BBC One interview, Mr Batten was also asked whether he hates Islam, the religion he calls a “death cult”.
“I do not like the ideology, the literalist interpretation of Islam,” he replied.
“I know lots of people in this country who do take a literal interpretation of Islam.
"I think that’s the worrying thing.”
He also defended his proposal that mosque building should be banned in the UK.
“What I have said in the past is that we should not allow planning permission for mosques until they allow planning permission in Islamic countries for churches, Hindu temples and other forms of religion.”
Mr Batten took over the party last year after a tumultuous period since the departure of Nigel Farage and has appointed the activist known as Tommy Robinson as an adviser.
Mr Farage, who has formed a new Brexit Party, criticised his old stable as now being linked to “extremism, violence, criminal records and thuggery”.