London Mayor Boris Johnson, figurehead of the "Out" campaign ahead of Britain's referendum on European Union membership, was accused on Friday of demeaning the EU debate with a comment about US President Barack Obama's Kenyan heritage.
The "In" campaign and lawmakers attacked the Conservative mayor over a passage in an opinion article he wrote in the Sun newspaper criticizing Obama, who is visiting Britain and has urged Britons to vote to remain in the bloc.
Johnson speculated about why a bust of Britain's wartime leader Winston Churchill had been removed from the Oval Office in the early days of Obama's presidency in 2009.
"Some said it was a snub to Britain. Some said it was a symbol of the part-Kenyan president's ancestral dislike of the British Empire, of which Churchill had been such a fervent defender," wrote Johnson.
Obama's father was Kenyan but the president does not hold Kenyan citizenship and has never lived in Kenya.