Gordon Brown gaffe prompts 'Bigotgate'

Prime Minister Gordon Brown apologized after he was caught on microphone calling a grandmother "bigoted" after the two chatted in front of the media.
By Karla Adam
Washington Post Foreign Service
Wednesday, April 28, 2010; 8:12 PM

LONDON -- Fittingly for an election season that has already been dubbed "U.S.-style," the first major campaign-trail gaffe ahead of Britain's May 6 polls acquired a "gate" suffix within minutes Wednesday -- Bigotgate.

Stumping in northern England, Prime Minister Gordon Brown was caught on a microphone calling potential voter Gillian Duffy, 66, "a bigoted woman" after she quizzed him on a host of issues, including the touchy issue of immigration.

Brown's damage control team sprang into action. The prime minister even sought out Duffy, a life-long Labor supporter of his Labor Party, at her home.

"I am a penitent sinner," Brown said afterward. He had "misunderstood" some of Duffy's words, he said, adding that she accepted his apology.

For television viewers, one of the day's most excruciating moments came when a BBC radio announcer told Brown he had a tape recording of the private conversation and played it back for him. In what could become a defining image of the election, Brown, whose party is running third in most opinion polls, buried his head in his hands.

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