The MEP for North West England has apologised for making ‘crass’ comments about the behaviour of a Liberal Democrat peer embroiled in a sexual harassment row in a radio interview.
Liberal Democrat MEP Chris Davies told BBC Radio 4’s Westminster Hour on Sunday (January 19): “This isn’t Jimmy Savile, it is touching someone’s leg six years ago, at a meeting, through clothing.
“This is the equivalent of, a few years ago, an Italian man pinching a woman’s bottom. How much more must this man be made to suffer through the media condemnation that comes out day after day fed by the party leadership?”
In a statement, Mr Davies later said: “My remarks about Italians pinching a woman’s bottom were crass and I apologise.
“They were spur of the moment words made during an as-live interview as I tried to explain that the accusations against Chris Rennard needed to be put into proportion.
“It happened also that my wife had just told me that she had been asked by a neighbour whether Chris had raped someone.
“Chris Rennard has been my friend for 36 years and I can see the pain he is going through and I reacted as a friend.
“I hope that matters can be settled by him and the complainants civilly and without a further media feeding frenzy.”
Lord Rennard was suspended by the Lib Dems for 14 weeks while it investigates whether he has brought the party into disrepute by refusing to apologise for causing distress to the women who lodged the complaints against him.
He is accused of sexually harassing female party members over a number of years, allegations he denies.
Leader of the Lib Dems Nick Clegg has said Lord Rennard must apologise before he resumes the party whip.