Brexit Party leader Nigel Farage has warned it was a “great mistake” for British politicians to demonise Donald Trump.
In the latest seven-way TV election debate hosted by ITV, the parties clashed over the US president – who arrives in the UK on Monday ahead of a meeting of Nato leaders.
In some of the strongest exchanges, Liberal Democrat leader Jo Swinson said that, while the relationship with the US was important, Mr Trump, who had spoken of sexually assaulting women, did not share British values.
“The last thing we should have done is to roll out the red carpet for a state visit,” she said.
Mr Farage said that, while some of Mr Trump’s comments were wrong, it was essential to consider the national interest in maintaining the relationship with the US.
“It was crass and it was crude and it was wrong – men say dreadful things sometimes. If all of us were called out for what we did on a night out after a drink, none of us would …” he said.
At that point he was interrupted by Ms Swinson who said: “Is that what you do on a night out after a drink?”
Mr Farage replied: “He is president of the USA and that relationship matters.
“You are so anti-American you are prepared to put your hatred of Trump above our national interest.
“That is a great mistake.”
Plaid Cymru leader Adam Price said Mr Farage was wrong to defend the US president.
“It can never be acceptable for a man to talk about grabbing a woman’s pussy. If you think it is you should be ashamed of yourself,” he said.
Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said Boris Johnson was trying to pursue the same “strong man” tactics of the president.
“That in my view is not what the UK or any it needs. Donald Trump’s attitudes are wrong and they are dangerous.
“In Boris Johnson we have got somebody who is trying to be like him,” she said.
For Labour shadow justice secretary Richard Burgon said: “Our quarrel and difference is with some of the policies of Donald Trump who, like Boris Johnson, is a politician who has given the green light to sexism, homophobia and racism and that cannot be allowed to flourish.”
However for the Conservatives, Treasury Chief Secretary Rishi Sunak said that the relationship with the US was essential to Britain’s national security and should not be denigrated.
“The relationship we have with America is incredibly important for keeping us safe.
“The intelligence that is shared keeps all of us safe every single day,” he said.
“That is not something to turn your nose at. It is something we should be welcoming.”
He also rejected accusations that Mr Johnson was guilty of fostering homophobia, after referring to gay men as “bum boys in tank tops”.
“When it comes to LGBT rights the Prime Minister’s record is very clear.
“He was the first leading Conservative politician to come out in favour of same sex marriage,” he said.