In UK, Parliament Member calls Pfizer “rapists” and faces immediate backlash

Austin Mitchell is a Labour Party Member of Parliament (MP) in Britain, representing the port of Grimsby.  Mitchell made the news because of a tweet in which he refers to the U.S. drug company Pfizer as rapists.

Pfizer is in the process of attempting to acquire AstroZeneca, a British drug company.  Many on both sides of the Atlantic are fearful of such a merger, in no small part due to the fear of job loss.  Austin Mitchell is one of those people.  Two days ago, he sent out this tweet:

Mitchell’s cavalier use of of term “rapists” generated significant controversy.  Five Tory MPs attacked Mitchell for his comments, with criticisms ranging from “disgusting” to calls for his suspension.  That may not make much of a difference to Mitchell, who announced in April that he will not seek reelection to the seat he’s held since 1977.

Perhaps most interesting in this entire story is the conflict between Mitchell’s statements and the statements of his party.  First, there was Mitchell’s follow up tweet:

Mitchell rape tweet follow up

Then, in an interview with the UK Huffingtom Post, Mitchell said that he meant rape as in the rape “of a company,” as he was afraid of the “dismantling of a company and the loss of jobs.”  Mitchell added:  “I don’t know why they want to defend the company. They object to the word so I’ll substitute rapaciousness – as they are a rapacious company.”  He also said that he had no regrets for the tweet.  In another interview, Mitchell said,

You’ve got to bear in mind that one of the definitions of rape in the Oxford English Dictionary is to plunder and that I fear is what is going to happen to AstraZeneca at the hands of Pfizer.

So, Mitchell doubled down.  But, the Labour party wasn’t in sync with him.  In a statement, Labour said that Mitchell had apologized:

https://twitter.com/GuidoFawkes/status/466591143564955651

Opps.  So, a big lesson here: When there is a social media screw-up, make sure everyone is on the same page.  Of course, the more obvious lesson is to be careful with what you say.  It’s also worth noting that this isn’t Mitchell’s first controversy with Twitter: he previously got into hot water when he told a former MP that “a good wife doesn’t disagree with her master.”  Oof.  It’s pretty clear that MP Mitchell has judgement issues that are completely independent of Twitter.

Anything else to add?  Let us know in the comments!

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