UK minister James Cleverly sorry for ‘joke’ about date rape

LONDON — U.K. Home Secretary James Cleverly apologized for making a joke about drugging his wife with the date rape drug rohypnol. 

Speaking on Sky News in his first round of interviews since the row, the home secretary said he “regrets” the remark, adding: “It was a joke that I made and of course, I regret it. I apologized immediately and that apology is heartfelt.”

The Mirror first reported in December that the top interior minister — whose department had just launched an anti-spiking drive — told guests at a Downing Street reception that “a little bit of Rohypnol” in his wife’s drink “every night” was “not really illegal if it’s only a little bit.”

Joking about his wife of 24 years, Cleverly said the key to a long marriage was ensuring your spouse was “someone who is always mildly sedated so she can never realize there are better men out there.”

Cleverly told Sky’s Kay Burley Monday that he “shouldn’t have said it” and that the joke has “clearly caused hurt,” adding “it’s potentially distracted from the work we’re doing to tackle spiking.” 

He defended his position by saying: “I was the first home secretary to put forward legislation to toughen our ability to deal with spiking.”

The home secretary faced calls to quit after the remarks were revealed, with Labour’s Shadow Home Secretary Yvette Cooper saying “spiking is a disturbing and serious crime,” and that it is “truly unbelievable that the home secretary made such appalling jokes.”

Chief executive of campaign group the Fawcett Society Jemima Olchawski meanwhile described the remarks as “sickening” and called for Cleverly to go.

But Prime Minister Rishi Sunak’s spokesperson said over the Christmas break that it was “right that the home secretary apologized” and that Sunak now “considers the matter closed.”