Boris Johnson has described the reaction to a Nobel laureate’s controversial comments about women as similar to that of “ferocious stinging bees”.
The mayor of London said Sir Tim Hunt deserved to be reinstated in his role at two scientific organisations after he was forced to resign.
Sir Tim left his jobs at the Royal Society and University College London after his remarks sparked a backlash online.
Mr Johnson said that the “distinguished” scientist has contributed largely to his field and that the online response had been an “over-reaction”.
Speaking at event to mark the start of London Technology Week, he added: “He (Sir Tim) has done an awful lot for humanity and in the course of some off-the-cuff conversation in Seoul he made a few light-hearted comments and somewhat satirical remarks about men and women, for which he has been very very severely penalised and he had lost his job.”
Asked how he thought people should have reacted, Mr Johnson commented: “I think people should take it in the spirit in which it was meant. And I think one of the troubles in the Twittersphere and internet is that it is possible to create a great roar.
“And all the ferocious stinging bees of the Twittersphere descend on one poor victim and sting him half to death. And that is what has happened to poor Tim Hunt.”
Sir Tim reportedly described himself as a ‘’chauvinist pig’’ at the World Conference of Science Journalists in Seoul and argued in favour of single-sex laboratories.
He said: “Let me tell you about my trouble with girls. Three things happen when they are in the lab: you fall in love with them, they fall in love with you, and when you criticise them they cry.”
Sir Tim insisted his comments were meant to be humorous, and later apologised.
Writing in the Daily Telegraph, Mr Johnson said it is a scientific fact that women cry more readily than men, citing the work of Professor Ad Vingerhoets of Tilburg University, and maintained that it should not be an offence to point out a “gender difference”.