Yesterday, an image of a man burying his face in his hands while listening to Nigel Farage's speech at the European parliament went viral.
The UKIP leader had told his fellow MEPs that when he gave his maiden speech in Brussels he had been laughed at when he said Britain would one day leave the EU. “Well you’re not laughing now are you?” he said.
He went on to taunt MEPs, saying: “Now I know virtually none of you have ever done a proper job in your lives."
Which rather ignores the small detail that the man facepalming is Lithuania's Vytenis Andriukaitis, the European commissioner for health and food safety – a heart surgeon who was brought up in a gulag after Stalin deported his family to Siberia.
Andriukaitis has today explained his reaction to Farage's speech, and even tweeted the picture of his facepalm.
Writing in a blog called "Thoughts from #WeAreSeat123", he said: "Yesterday, with my fellow EU commissioners, I attended the extraordinary session in the European parliament. Some photos – particularly that of my right hand – and videos have spread on social media. You will have seen me grimacing and trying to hide my despair while Nigel Farage spoke.
"I have enjoyed reading the many comments and can confirm that I do indeed appreciate British humour. But as tweets were exchanged, I felt it was important to share some more serious thoughts on how I felt yesterday in the parliament."
Andriukaitis, the former vice-president of the World Health Assembly – the decision-making body of the World Health Organisation – added that he was "fully with all the British people".
"I am with all those who voted against financial speculation uncovered in the Panama Papers and with those who voted against unemployment and decreasing standards of living," he said.
"I am also with those who voted to remain in the EU, who want to create a better future for their families, and who believe that it is possible together, united in diversity, to fight against corporate greed and fraud perpetrated by financial transnational capitalism."
Andriukaitis said that "toxic untruths" spread by Farage and other people on the Leave side had "now been revealed as lies".
"Britain is changing. Young people in Scotland, Northern Ireland or London want to see a different future," Andriukaitis wrote.
"The EU is changing as well. For me its future lies in social justice and security. This is the way forward. And only together, with the EU member states, with the European parliament, and with a decisive European Council – avoiding the cacophony and constant bashing of Brussels – can we achieve this together."
Aisha Gani is a senior reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in London.
Contact Aisha Gani at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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