Eddie Mair, the host of BBC Radio 4’s PM programme, attempted to compare the Conservative leader to the Turkish premier accused of rigging a referendum which could keep him in power until 2029.
Mrs May on Tuesday shocked the United Kingdom by announcing her intention to hold a snap election on June 8 – which some have said is a huge “U-turn” with the Prime Minister previously refusing to hold an early vote.
Discussing the decision with Home Secretary Amber Rudd, Mair suggested her speech outside Downing Street signalled “opposing Government policy means you are opposing national interest”.
He said: “We have to rally behind the Prime Minister on Brexit? There must be unity at Westminster says this Prime Minister.
Eddie Mair was lambasted after comparing Theresa May to Turkish President Erdogan
Is this Theresa May or President Erdogan
“Opposing Government policy means you’re opposing the national interest?”
Ms Rudd replied: “Well that is going to be the political debate that is going to be had…”
However, she was swiftly interrupted by Mair, who added: “Goodness, is this Theresa May or President Erdogan?”
Mair was referring to the President Erdogan’s victory on Sunday to replace Turkish parliamentary system with an all-powerful presidency, with the office of prime minister abolished.
Ms Rudd was quick to disregard the host’s comments, branding them “extraordinary”.
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She said: “Well, that is a rather extraordinary comment.
“The voters will be able to make up their own decisions over the next 50 days.”
Iain Duncan Smith, the former work and Pensions Secretary, demanded the BBC host withdraw his comments as the row spread through the Conservative Party.
He said: “Theresa May is the democratically elected leader of the most democratic country in the world.
Politicians react to Theresa May's snap general election Wed, April 19, 2017
UK Prime Minister Theresa May has announced her intention to hold an early general election on June 8
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Theresa May has called for a snap general election
“It is appalling to make that comparison and wholly unacceptable. He should withdraw such a slur.”
In response, a BBC spokesman said: “The PM programme played the Prime Minister’s entire statement, almost seven minutes, uninterrupted for the audience to listen to for itself.
“Eddie then interviewed the Home Secretary, lasting for more than seven minutes, so the detail of the statement could be carefully examined along with the decision to call the election.
“PM will impartially scrutinise the speeches of all leaders with the same rigour with our fear or favour during this election.”