Former Canadian media tycoon Conrad Black is suggesting he could sit again in Britain's House of Lords despite his criminal conviction in the United States.
“Well, why not? ... there is not a prohibition on a convicted criminal sitting in that House,” Mr. Black said in a testy exchange with star interviewer Jeremy Paxman that the BBC aired Monday night.
Mr. Black said someone could have a criminal record from a repressive justice system such as North Korea.
“Under [Mr. Paxman]’s theory, Nelson Mandela couldn’t sit [in the House of Lords],” he argued.
Mr. Black made no effort in the interview to hide his annoyance at Mr. Paxman, calling him a “priggish, gullible British fool” and stating that he was tempted to punch his interlocutor.
The 68-year-old entrepreneur, who renounced his Canadian citizenship a decade ago so he could accept the title Baron Black of Crossharbour, is visiting Britain to promote his book, A Matter of Principle, which details his legal battle in the U.S. over his conviction for fraud and obstruction of justice.
In another interview, Tuesday, he told Sky News journalist Adam Boulton to "stop being a jackass" when Mr. Boulton wondered in which country Mr. Black was still welcome.
Mr. Black returned to Toronto last spring after his release, and is living in Canada on a temporary resident permit.
He told Mr. Boulton he intends to reapply for his Canadian citizenship. "I am a passport-carrying citizen of the EU … I’m not a refugee struggling desperately from place to place for some place to lay my head.”
He urged Mr. Boulton to hold up his book to the cameras. "I'm selling books. That's why I'm here. I'm not here to enjoy your somewhat predictable questions."
His interview with Mr. Paxman, who has a reputation for being abrasive, turned fractious as Mr. Black insisted that he would have never been convicted had he been tried in Canada or Britain.
“You have been convicted,” Mr. Paxman said.
“Would you stop that bourgeois priggishness?” Mr. Black replied. “You’re talking as if...”
“What priggishness? You’re a criminal!” the BBC interviewer interrupted.
Everything he did was legal, Mr. Black insisted.
“It was a smear job from A to Z ... The whole system is a fraudulent, fascistic conveyor belt of a corrupt prison system.”
As the tone rose. Mr. Black pointed his index at his interviewer.
“Before you accuse me of being a criminal...” Mr. Black began.
Mr. Paxman again interjected: “You are a criminal!”
“No, you’re a fool!” Mr. Black shot back.
“You’re just a gullible fool. You’re a priggish, gullible British fool who takes seriously this ghastly American justice system that any sane English person knows is an outrage,” Mr. Black said while Mr. Paxman tried to hold back a grin.
The BBC journalist asked if it was incongruous that, as a Roman Catholic, Mr. Black should not do penitence for his crimes.
Mr. Black said his only sin was to have done business in the United States when he owned the Chicago-based newspaper company Hollinger International Inc.
“I made a mistake, I underestimated the venality and corruption of the American legal system. I confess to that.”
He said he was proud to have lived through his legal and penal problems “and actually being able to endure a discussion like this without getting up and smashing your face in..."
“Well, you go ahead,” Mr. Paxman said.
“No, I don't believe in violence,” Mr. Black said.
Sparks flew again, seconds after Mr. Black complained that his interviewer was “waxing so sanctimonious.”
The BBC journalist began asking about Mr. Black’s wife, Barbara Amiel, describing her as an “extravagant” woman.
“No, no. Oh God, I’m going to throw up,” Mr. Black said.
“After seven years, my first morning back in Britain, am I going to be subjected to this?”