A pro-Brexit campaign has sparked a furious reaction by drawing links between the killing of at least 50 people in a US nightclub and the EU referendum debate.
The post, on the official Twitter account of the Leave.EU campaign, was denounced as “shameful” by cabinet minister Nicky Morgan and “cowardly” by shadow foreign secretary Hilary Benn.
It contained an image of militants brandishing guns in a desert, with the warning: “Islamist terrorism is a real threat to our way of life. Act now before we see an Orlando-style atrocity here before too long.”
The poster was attached to a tweet which claimed: “The free movement of Kalashnikovs in Europe helps terrorists. Vote for greater security on June 23. Vote Leave.”
Within minutes of the tweet, pro-Remain education secretary Ms Morgan said: “This is really shameful.”
Mr Benn said: “Shameful and cowardly. Our best protection against terror is standing together whether in Orlando, Paris, or Brussels.”
Other Twitter users described the post as “disgusting” and “abhorrent”, with one demanding to know whether prominent Leave campaigner Boris Johnson — a member of the rival Vote Leave group — would condone it.
Britain Stronger in Europe spokesman and Labour frontbencher Chris Bryant called on Leave campaigners to condemn the post.
“Leave.EU’s tweet is completely out of order,” said Mr Bryant. “Do they have no sense of common decency? They should take it down and apologise immediately.
“The wider Leave campaign should condemn it in the strongest possible terms. If they do not, they will be endorsing the twisting of the murders of innocent people for political purposes.”
Mr Benn said: “It takes courage to stand by your principles and your friends when they are attacked, whether in Orlando, Paris, or Brussels. Doing so makes us stronger and shows our resolve to stand up for our values and way of life in the face of those who hold both in murderous contempt.”
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