Paul Nuttall: I am the victim of a Hillsborough 'smear campaign'
Paul Nuttall last night claimed he had been the victim of a "smear campaign" over the Hillsborough row threatening to derail his bid to become an MP.
The Ukip leader finally broke his silence at a by-election hustings event in Stoke one week before next week's crucial by-election.
Mr Nuttall was forced to admit earlier this week that a claim on his website that he had lost "close personal friends" in the 1989 Hillsborough football disaster were false.
A Ukip press officer later said she was responsible for the bogus claim and offered to resign.
Mr Nuttall last night said he took full responsibility for the mistake, but hit out at suggestions he had also invented claims he was at the FA Cup semi-final at which 96 Liverpool fans were killed.
He said: "I have been a victim of a smear campaign, one which has been organised, one which tries to claim that I wasn’t at the Hillsborough disaster even though I have provided witness statements.
“And the sources who said, ‘oh he mightn’t have been there’ are unnamed, and they won’t be named, and it’s utterly disgraceful.
“There was a mistake on my website, which was put up by a press officer - I take full responsibility. It has now been taken down.
“I was there, I was at the game. I can prove I was at the game. And I think it is a very dangerous route for politics to take.
"Look, I thought I’d seen all lows in politics - this just isn’t scraping the barrel, this is digging beneath the barrel."
Mr Nuttall's campaign has been hit by a series of controversies, including claims the address he put on his nomination forms was false.
Labour retained the Stoke-on-Trent Central seat with a majority of 5,000 at the 2015 election. The by-election was caused after Tristram Hunt quit as MP to become director of the Victoria and Albert Museum in London.