The unidentified man was said to have been distributing leaflets for the Conservative candidate when he allegedly referred to Khan as “the Muslim” in a doorstep exchange with Perry Pontac, of Streatham, south London.
Goldsmith’s team said they were investigating the allegation, which they were made aware of in writing last week. They said any such remark would be unacceptable.
Pontac told the Guardian that the exchange occurred at lunchtime on 22 December. He said that as he returned home from shopping, he saw a white, middle-aged man standing in the front garden who indicated he was distributing leaflets. Pontac said he opened the door and picked up the “Back Zac” flyers before offering to hand them back to the canvasser.
“I told him: ‘You can have these back because I’m not voting for him, I’m voting for the MP for Tooting [Khan],’” he said.
He claimed the man replied in a disdainful tone: “You’re voting for the Muslim?”
Pontac, a writer whose work has been performed on Radio 4 and by the Royal Shakespeare Company, said he did not ask the man’s name or for more details about him because he was so stunned by the exchange.
He said: “I became angry. I didn’t even respond. It was said with such disdain that I assumed he thought I would agree, I suppose. If it had been the other way round and someone had said [about Goldsmith] ‘you are voting for the Jew?’ it would be equally unthinkable.”
Pontac, who was born in the US but is now a naturalised UK citizen having lived in Britain for 45 years, said he had never met Khan and lived just outside of his constituency. He said he was a Labour voter and was once a party member but dropped out when Tony Blair took the UK into the Iraq war.
As a writer, he said, he was careful with words and was sure that he did not mishear the canvasser. “I am very careful about what I say because I don’t want any holes to be picked in what I say ,” he said.
An email outlining the alleged exchange was sent to Goldsmith’s campaign headquarters last week. Mark Fullbrook, the campaign director, replied on 23 December, saying he would launch an inquiry.
“This is clearly not acceptable and in no way reflects the campaign. If you can provide me with the street you live in I will seek to identify the person in question and I will take the appropriate action,” Fullbrook wrote in an email, seen by the Guardian.
Fullbrook is a partner in CTF, a firm cofounded by the Tory general election mastermind Lynton Crosby.
Meanwhile, the Tories have launched a website called sadiqwatch.com. And a campaign video titled Who is Sadiq Khan? attracted a number of offensive comments on the party’s Facebook page, including one that said: “If Khan/Corbyn get in you can expect another 50 mosques in London, more extremists, no thank you there’s too many already.”
The Goldsmith campaign declined to comment beyond Fullbrook’s email response.
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