A British journalist has accused UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson, of groping her inner thigh while sitting next to her at a lunch in his previous career as a magazine editor.
Charlotte Edwardes, the assistant editor of The Sunday Times, wrote in a column for the newspaper that Johnson put his hand on her leg during his time as the editor of The Spectator, a renowned British political magazine.
A spokeswoman for 10 Downing Street was not immediately able to comment.
At the time Edwardes was a newspaper reporter who also wrote occasional pieces for the magazine, which Johnson ran, making him effectively her boss.
She said her usual reaction would have been to confront Johnson, but that she stayed silent because it was a work situation.
Edwardes did not give a precise date for the allegation, which she said took place at a routine, drunken lunch “in the late 1990s/early 2000s.” Johnson was editor from 1999 to 2005.
She characterized it as a drunken affair, writing: “The mood is of the time: louche, loud, risqué. Wine is poured; wine is drunk.”
Edwardes would have been in her late twenties or early thirties at the time. Johnson, she said, was in his late thirties
Here is how she described the moment:
“Under the table, I feel Johnson’s hand on my thigh. He gives it a squeeze. His hand is high up my leg and he has enough inner flesh beneath his fingers to make me sit suddenly upright.
“My mother always said: ‘Wear a badge to the cinema with which to stab the wandering hands.’ But this is work, so I am silent.”
Edwardes said that a second woman was seated on the other side of Johnson, and told her afterwards that the same thing had happened to her.
Allegations of sexism
Johnson has repeatedly faced allegations of sexism throughout his career.
In 2005 he wrote about touching a female colleague during his time as editor of the Spectator.
In a farewell piece in the Spectator marking his exit as editor, Johnson offered the following advice to his successor.
“Once the fire is going well, you may find your eyes drifting to the lovely striped chesterfield across the room. Is it the right size, you wonder, for a snooze. . . ?” he wrote.
“You come round in a panic, to find a lustrous pair of black eyes staring down at you. Relax. It’s only Kimberly [Quinn, who was then the Spectator’s publisher] with some helpful suggestions for boosting circulation.”
He advised his successor to “just pat her on the bottom and send her on her way.”
Johnson also wrote in the Daily Telegraph about a time he pinned a Pirelli calendar to his desk, which featured nude photography, despite complaints from female colleagues.
Boasting of his decision, Johnson told his readers that the calendar “caused something of a stir.”
“They made women feel embarrassed, I was told,” he wrote.
“I’d hate to stand next to some guy and try to get my point across while May was on display,” said one woman.
Johnson was also criticised during his time as Mayor of London for suggesting that Malaysian women only go to university to “find men to marry.”