Katie Hopkins claims photo of dead Syrian toddler was staged
The photograph of a dead Syrian boy Aylan Kurdi lying on a beach that sparked a wave compassion across Europe was staged, controversial columnist Katie Hopkins has said at Ukip's party conference.
Nigel Farage was forced to distance himself from the remarks, which threatened to overshadow his set piece speech.
The Ukip leader insisted he would not comment on Hopkins after she claimed public opinion swung behind helping refugees because "people wanted to feel better about themselves" after seeing the photo of three year-old Aylan Kurdi, who drowned with his mother and brother trying to cross from Turkey to Greece by boat.
The former Apprentice contestant told ITV News: "I think what happened with the refugee crisis is that everybody saw a photo, you know they were very upset by that staged photo and they wanted to do something about it to make themselves feel better.
"Well, guess what? Politics isn't about making you feel better, it's about facing up to the big issues of our time."
She added: "Of course it's a sad thing, it's a sad moment but children have been drowning for a long time and the more that we welcome refugees, the more we encourage them to come, the more that (Angela) Merkel , the mother of all migrants, stands there and opens her arms to have people come to our country, the more people are going to drown.
"So unless we stop people crossing the water, unless we send people to stop those boats that's going to carry on happening so I say don't get upset about one photo."
Mr Farage said he "doubted" that the photo was staged.
The Ukip leader said: "Katie Hopkins says all sorts of things, i don't think we should be focusing on an image of one dead boy, we should be focusing on 3,000 dead people over the course of this year and those deaths caused by an EU policy that encouraged them to take the risks, to go into the hands of the criminal traffickers, and come."
Asked whether it was staged, Mr Farage said: "I doubt it, I've no idea. I'm not going to comment on Katie Hopkins."
Meanwhile, Ms Hopkins warned that Britain was about to be "deluged by a wave of immigration".
Appearing on the fringes of the gathering in Doncaster, the columnist rejected demands for the UK to help Syrian refugees fleeing the twin horrors of Bashar Assad's brutal regime and the rise of Islamic State.
Ms Hopkins said British taxes would be better spent on schools and hospitals and dismissed the outcry over the suffering of refugees.
She told the Press Association: "Would I vote right now to leave the EU? Yes, absolutely I would.
"We are about to be deluged by a wave of immigration and I don't think it's something our country can cope with any more."
She added: "You all saw a picture in the newspapers and you felt bad about it and so you want to make yourself feel better."
Ms Hopkins added: "I won't be opening up my spare bedroom to refugees. I stand for British people and putting British people first."
Ms Hopkins was at the conference to campaign for electoral reform, arguing the Ukip had been hit hardest by the first past the post system at the general election.
She insisted she was not preparing to join Ukip to campaign for Britain to leave the EU.
"I would like to see Great Britain out of the EU," she said. "I think it's an important time for us to leave but in no way am I trying to oblige myself onto Ukip or any other party."