London

London Muslims riled over Andrew Lawton's 'disgusting' deleted tweets

Political reaction has been fierce after a series of deleted tweets have emerged from London West Progressive Conservative candidate Andrew Lawton that contain antagonistic remarks about women, Islam and the LGBTQ community.

Doug Ford has steadfastly defended the former private radio host calling him 'a good candidate'

Nawaz Tahir is a London lawyer and the chair of Hikma, a London Muslim advocacy group. (Colin Butler/CBC News)

London lawyer Nawaz Tahir calls them "disgusting."

But out of the dozens of Andrew Lawton's deleted tweets, the one that bothers him the most is one the Progressive Conservative candidate for London West made about wearing wires. 

"I think the question for Doug Ford is how this happened." - Nawaz   Tahir

"I think the one that ruffles my feathers the most was the one about the heart monitor and being wired up, that somehow made him feel like a Muslim, that's the one that really sent me over the top."

Since the deleted tweets have reappeared, it's all the local Islamic community has been talking about, according to Tahir, who is also chair of a local advocacy group for Muslims called Hikma.  

"The discussions have mostly centred on how somebody like this could have been appointed," he said. "With such a public record about [Andrew Lawton's] views, the question is how the Conservative party, who have been trying to reach out to ethnic groups and trying to show how inclusive they are, then how could you pick somebody like this who has been so clear on his views about minorities?"

"I think the question for Doug Ford is how this happened," said Tahir.

Lawton blames tweets on mental illness

Progressive Conservative candidate Andrew Lawton holds up a political pamphlet as he canvasses a neighbourhood in the London West riding. (Andrew Lawton/Twitter)

On Tuesday, Progressive Conservative leader Doug Ford staunchly defended the former private radio talk show host when reporters asked whether he'd turf Lawton from the party for the same reason he turfed Tanya Granic Allen.

"Some of his comments weren't appropriate and I think Andrew is a good candidate," Ford said Tuesday. "He has come out and said that some of his comments weren't appropriate. I'll accept that and we're happy to have Andrew on as one of the candidates and we have a big tent." 

Ford sacked Allen over the weekend because of what he called "irresponsible comments" she made in a 2014 video, where the former PC leadership hopeful described the push for sexual education in Croatia as "trying to push radical sexualization on the young, or gay marriage, I almost vomit in disbelief."

It draws a sharp contrast in the way Ford has treated Allen, one of Ford's former rivals for the PC leadership race and Lawton, who made a number of controversial remarks about women, Islam, the LGBT community and other minorities.

Lawton has blamed his struggle with mental illness for the controversial tweets. 

"Throughout my career, I've been very open about my struggles with mental illness," he tweeted Monday. "While that discussion has centred on my 2010 suicide attempt, in actuality it was a battle that spanned from 2005 to 2013."

'Very troubling'

New Democrat MPP Peggy Sattler, who will be running against Progressive Conservative candidate Andrew Lawton in London West calls her opponents' controversial tweets 'very troubling.' (Peggy Sattler)

"I think it's very troubling," said London West New Democrat MPP Peggy Sattler Tuesday.

Racism, Islamophobia, misogyny, homophobia, they have no place in London or the provincial legislature.- Peggy Sattler

Sattler, who would be the woman Lawton seeks to unseat when the election officially begins Wednesday, said while she sympathizes with Lawton's struggle with mental health, his past comments about women, Islam and the LGBTQ community are unacceptable. 

"By saying that he's sticking with his candidate, Doug Ford is effectively giving a platform to the kinds of views that were expressed by Lawton in the past," she said.

"It doesn't matter if Lawton has now said he regrets those tweets and he regrets those views, Doug Ford is legitimizing those kinds of opinions in public discourse and that's not okay." 

"Racism, Islamophobia, misogyny, homophobia, they have no place in London or the provincial legislature." Sattler said.  

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Colin Butler

Video Journalist

Colin Butler is a veteran CBC reporter who's worked in Moncton, Saint John, Fredericton, Toronto, Kitchener-Waterloo, Hamilton and London, Ont. Email: colin.butler@cbc.ca

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