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British MP Galloway under fire for tweeting offensive term for the mentally disabled

British Member of Parliament George Galloway gives an interview to a television station, as anti-war protesters demonstrate outside the Iraq Inquiry, as former British Prime Minster Tony Blair gives evidence, London , Friday, Jan. 29, 2010.

Alastair Grant/AP/Alastair Grant/AP

Although Barack Obama famously used social media to propel himself to the White House, there are many more examples of politicians who should leave it well enough alone.

The latest is controversial British MP George Galloway, who has gone uncharacteristically quiet after being called out for using on Twitter a slang term for the mentally handicapped. The gaffe comes after the politician faced a wave of criticism for minimizing the seriousness of Julian Assange's behaviour with women he is alleged to have raped.

In the latest faux-pas, he had attacked a person identified as a fan of the Glasgow Rangers football club.

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"You badly need medical help son," Mr. Galloway tweeted Sunday. "Will decent Rangers fans please substitute this windae-licker."

A BBC poll in 2003 found the term the third most offensive way to refer to a person of limited mental capacity. It is apparently based on the belief such people press their tongues against the glass.

The comment outraged advocates for the disabled and sparked a quick reaction online. "Classy as always George," one person charged. "Respect for all apart from women or the disabled eh?" On Tuesday, reacting to Mr. Galloway's silence on the issue, he followed up with "still condoning the phrase 'windae-licker'?"

Mr. Galloway is normally well known for being unwilling to back down from a fight.

He was ejected from the governing Labour Party in 2003 for his criticism of the Iraq war, later returning to Parliament under the banner of the left-wing Respect Party. In 2005, in a blistering address that became an internet sensation, he tore into a U.S. Senator for alleging he had shady links to Saddam Hussein. He sued after being barred entry to Canada in 2009 over his role in an aid convoy to the Gaza Strip, led by Hamas, deemed a terrorist organization by Ottawa.

But this time he seems tempted simply to keep his head down and ride it out. Perhaps he can claim a different understanding of the term – after all, in France it means to go window-shopping.

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About the Author

Oliver Moore joined the Globe and Mail's web newsroom in 2000 as an editor and then moved into reporting. A native Torontonian, he served four years as Atlantic Bureau Chief and has worked also in Afghanistan, Grenada, France, Spain and the United States. More

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