Former professional wrestler turned finance guru John Layfield yesterday apologised after he posted a photograph of himself with a controversial British politician.
Mr Layfield, the founder of the Beyond Rugby programme for young players, put a picture of himself with Nigel Farage, former leader of the UK Independence Party and prime mover behind the campaign for Britain to leave the European Union, on Twitter on Monday night.
A Bermudian-based businessman last night revealed the Brexiteer had been on the island to enjoy its “world-class” fishing.
However, Mr Layfield’s tweet led to a backlash on the social media site — and he took the photograph down by yesterday afternoon.
Mr Layfield, who is from the United States, wrote: “An absolute wonderful evening at my home with
@Nigel_Farage. He has promised Brexit and he delivered. A great guy.”
But he tweeted on Tuesday: “Want to apologise to anyone who was offended by my last post. Nigel Farage needed a TV
studio, I was asked and he used mine to talk Brexit and he was a perfect gentleman to me and my family and that was the essence of my post.”
Hundreds of posters responded to Mr Layfield’s original tweet. One, Simon Clark, said: “The way to alienate your UK fanbase in one tweet.”
Matt Walker added: “He was a figure of derision for most in the UK. He’s a cowardly little traitor who would rather see Britain in flames than accept it’s not the 1800s any more.”
Mr Layfield said some of the comments generated by the tweet had been “quite shocking”. He said: “Unfortunately, that’s social media.”
Mr Layfield, a financial commentator on Fox News, has lived in Bermuda since he retired as a professional wrestler in 2009.
He created the non-profit organisation Beyond Rugby Bermuda in 2011 as a bid to boost personal development for at-risk youths.
Mr Layfield told The Royal Gazette yesterday that the Fox network had asked him to let Mr Farage use his home television studio for segments for the network.
He said: “Fox called me and said, ‘Would you mind if Nigel used your studio?’.
“When he came out, he was an absolute perfect gentleman to me and my family. I enjoyed the evening with him talking about Brexit. He couldn’t have been more gracious.”
Mr Layfield said that Mr Farage had used his television studio again yesterday morning. He said that Monday night was the first time the two had met. Mr Farage founded UKIP in protest at Britain’s continued membership in the EU and campaigned for the country to quit the bloc — dubbed Brexit.
Mr Layfield said that he was against Brexit.
He explained: “I don’t think it’s a good idea.”
Mr Layfield said his post had “absolutely nothing to do with politics” and was not intended as an endorsement of Mr Farage.
He added: “I try to never post anything about politics.”
Mr Farage has also been accused of xenophobia and racism, as well as of making anti-Muslim and anti-Semitic statements.
Mr Layfield said that he believed his track record “spoke for itself, as far as inclusivity”.
He added: “I’ve been very outspoken on same-sex marriage — I’m very much in favour of it. I’m very much in favour of women’s rights. And I’ve been very outspoken on race.
“I took a picture with a gentleman that used my studio. I thought it was cool to talk to him about Brexit at a time when Brexit is one of the biggest things. I’ve taken thousands of pictures over the years.”
Mr Layfield said that he had “absolutely no idea” in what capacity Mr Farage was in Bermuda. He added: “And to be fair, if I did know, I wouldn’t say.”
Chris Maybury, a businessman and long-time island resident, last night explained: “Mr Farage is a very keen fisherman and he’d heard from me that Bermuda is world class.
“We had a wonderful day today, caught a lot of fish and he asked me to express his thanks for the hugely warm welcome that was extended to him by Bermudians and the fantastic, world-class quality of the fishing.”
Mr Farage was joined by Arron Banks, a British businessman and political donor, and it is understood Andy Wigmore, another key figure in the Leave campaign, was also with them.
When asked if the trio were on political business, Mr Maybury replied: “To my strong knowledge they were not.”
Agreeing it was a trip for pleasure, he added: “Bermuda did a wonderful job letting its magic out, as it always does.”
On Monday Mr Banks, a co-founder of the Leave. Eu campaign, wrote on twitter: “In Bermuda with @Nigel_Farage saying he will come back as UKIP leader if Brexit not back on track, Tories in marginally seats watch out!
“Lightening (sic) storm hit studio shortly afterwards — omens ...”
Farage in his own words
Nigel Farage was the leader of UKIP, the UK Independence Party, as it battled for Brexit ahead of the EU referendum. Some of his comments drew accusations of racism and xenophobia.
*Before the Brexit referendum result, days after Labour MP Jo Cox was shot and stabbed to death by a far-right fanatic who yelled “Britain first”: “We will have done it without having to fight, without a single bullet being fired.”
*On another culture: “Any normal and fair-minded person would have a perfect right to be concerned if a group of Romanian people suddenly moved in next door.”
*During a radio discussion about political power in the US: “There are about six million Jewish people living in America, so as a percentage it’s quite small, but in terms of influence, it’s quite big.”
He added: “Well, in terms of money and influence, yep, they are a very powerful lobby ... the Jewish lobby, with its links with the Israeli Government, is one of those strong voices.”
*On the gender pay gap: “A woman who has a client base, has a child and takes two or three years off — she is worth far less to her employer when she comes back than when she went away because that client base won’t be stuck as rigidly to her portfolio,”
*On breastfeeding: “I think that given some people feel very embarrassed by it, it isn’t too difficult to breastfeed a baby in a way that’s not openly ostentatious. Or perhaps sit in the corner, or whatever it might be.”