Boris Johnson denies groping journalist Charlotte Edwardes thigh while editor of the Spectator

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LONDON - Boris Johnson has denied claims that he groped a female journalist "so hard she flinched" at a lunch more than 20 years ago.

Downing Street made the unusual step of issuing an on-record denial that the incident had ever taken place, with a Number 10 spokesman saying on Sunday afternoon: "This allegation is untrue."Advertisement

Charlotte Edwardes said on Monday that the prime minister, who was then editor of the Spectator, touched her leg at an event during a lunch held by the magazine in 1999, as well as that of another woman at the lunch.

Writing in the Sunday Times, Edwardes said: "Under the table I feel Johnson's hand on my thigh.

"He gives it a squeeze. His hand is high up my leg and he has enough flesh beneath his fingers to make me sit suddenly upright."

Edwardes was at the time a young newspaper journalist writing occasional articles for the Spectator.

She claimed to have told the "young woman" on Johnson's other side about the incident after the "louche, loud, risqué" lunch.The woman reportedly replied: "Oh God, he did exactly the same to me."Advertisement

Johnson was married to Marina Wheeler at the time, who he is currently in the process of divorcing from.

Allegations of sexism

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Johnson has repeatedly faced allegations of sexism throughout his career.

In 2005 he wrote about touching a female colleague during his time as editor of the Spectator.Advertisement

In a farewell piece in the Spectator marking his exit as editor, Johnson offered the following advice to his successor.

Read more: Boris Johnson's record of sexist, racist and homophobic comments."

Once the fire is going well, you may find your eyes drifting to the lovely striped chesterfield across the room. Is it the right size, you wonder, for a snooze...?" he wrote.Advertisement

"You come round in a panic, to find a lustrous pair of black eyes staring down at you. Relax. It's only Kimberly [Quinn, then the Spectator's publisher] with some helpful suggestions for boosting circulation."

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