The Conservative cabinet minister was forced to issue a statement after he told LBC more people would have survived the tragedy if they had chosen to “ignore” the London Fire Brigade (LFB)’s “stay put” policy.
“I think if either of us were in a fire, whatever the fire brigade said, we would leave the burning building. It just seems the common sense thing to do. And it is such a tragedy that that didn’t happen,” he told host Nick Ferrari on Monday.
The comments caused an immediate backlash with Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn branding them “crass and insensitive”. He added: “What possesses someone to react to an entirely avoidable tragedy like Grenfell by saying the victims lacked common sense?
“People were terrified, many died trying to escape.”
What possesses someone to react to an entirely avoidable tragedy like Grenfell by saying the victims lacked common sense? People were terrified, many died trying to escape. Jacob Rees Mogg must apologise for these crass and insensitive comments immediately.https://t.co/QczW5iyxkR— Jeremy Corbyn (@jeremycorbyn) November 5, 2019
Labour MP David Lammy tweeted: “How dare you insult and denigrate those who died in Grenfell Tower.
“The victims of this crime of gross negligence followed the instructions they were given by the fire authorities. Do not blame them. Your arrogance and condescension is monstrous.”
In a statement later on Tuesday morning, Rees-Mogg said: “I profoundly apologise.
“What I meant to say is that I would have also listened to the fire brigade’s advice to stay and wait at the time. However, with what we know now and with hindsight I wouldn’t and I don’t think anyone else would.
“What’s so sad is that the advice given overrides common sense because everybody would want to leave a burning building.
“I would hate to upset the people of Grenfell if I was unclear in my comments. With hindsight and after reading the report no one would follow that advice. That’s the great tragedy.”
Grenfell United, a group that represents survivors and bereaved families of victims, criticised Rees-Mogg’s original comments as “beyond disrespectful”.
A statement issued on Twitter said: “The Leader of the House of Commons suggesting that the 72 people who lost their lives at Grenfell lacked common sense is beyond disrespectful.
“It is extremely painful and insulting to bereaved families.”
The public inquiry into the blaze found LFB’s preparation for a tower block fire such as Grenfell was “gravely inadequate” and its lack of evacuation plan a “major omission”.
More lives could have been saved had the “stay-put” policy been abandoned sooner, inquiry chairman Sir Martin Moore-Bick added.
Bereaved family members have said it was “heartbreaking” that more of their loved ones could have been saved, and called on Fire Commissioner Dany Cotton to step down.
Cotton said many recommendations of the inquiry were welcome and would be “carefully and fully” considered by senior officers.
She has resisted multiple calls for her to resign, and said the brigade was “fully cooperating” with the police.
This article originally appeared on HuffPost.