Dominic Cummings, special adviser to Britain's Prime Minister Boris Johnson, arrives at Downing Street in London, Britain October 17, 2019. Picture: REUTERS / HANNAH MCKAY
Dominic Cummings, special adviser to Britain's Prime Minister Boris Johnson, arrives at Downing Street in London, Britain October 17, 2019. Picture: REUTERS / HANNAH MCKAY

London — British Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s senior adviser hit back on Tuesday at “political pundits” who questioned the appointment of an aide forced to resign for racist remarks.

Asked if he regretted hiring self-styled “superforecaster” Andrew Sabisky, Dominic Cummings told reporters: “Read Philip Tetlock’s Superforecasting instead of political pundits who don't know what they are talking about.”

Cummings faced criticism of the appointment after he advertised for “weirdos and misfits with odd skills” to help bring new ideas to Britain’s government.

Sabisky suggested black people were less intelligent than whites and discussed the benefits of forced contraception in online posts. He quit on Monday, saying the “media hysteria” about his posts meant he had become a distraction for the government.

Sabisky’s comments and the way he was appointed caused upset both outside and in Johnson’s ruling Conservative Party, with junior business minister Kwasi Kwarteng saying they were “offensive and racist”.

Cummings, former campaign director of the “Vote Leave” Brexit campaign in the 2016 referendum, is Johnson’s most powerful adviser. He helped prompt the resignation of Sajid Javid as finance minister last week.

He says many British institutions — including the state — needed reform and were too often governed by lazy thinkers lacking prescience.

‘Offensive and racist’

Sabisky’s case led to calls for better vetting of Downing Street appointees.

He had posted comments on social media saying that figures showed the US black population had lower IQ than white people, and in a 2016 interview with digital publication Schools Week discussed the benefits of genetic selection.

After his resignation, he claimed he was the victim of character assassination. He said he hoped Johnson's office hired more people with “good geopolitical forecasting track records”, and the “media learn to stop selective quoting”.

Kwarteng told Sky News that Sabisky’s comments were “offensive and racist”.

“He was someone who had reprehensible views,” Kwarteng said. “Obviously we can’t have people with those kind of views operating at the heart of government.”

The government would be looking at vetting process more closely, he said.

On Monday, the prime minister's spokesperson repeatedly refused to comment when asked about Sabisky and whether Johnson shared his views.

Johnson was criticised in the past for referring to African people as “piccaninnies” with “watermelon smiles”. 

Reuters

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