PM backs minister over ‘lying cow’ slur
Prime Minister Scott Morrison will not sack the Defence Minister Linda Reynolds for "offensive" descriptions of her ex-staffer Brittany Higgins as a "lying cow" on the grounds she was not referring to the rape allegations.
In his first public comments on the scandal, Mr Morrison called for compassion for Senator Reynolds on the grounds she had a "stressful week" after it was revealed she had known for two years that an ex-staffer had alleged she was raped on her office couch.
"A couple of points I'd like to make. First, she has already spoken to her staff and apologised for those comments,'' the Prime Minister said.
"So she knows those comments to have been inappropriate and wrong. The second point I make - and I share her view, obviously, about that. The second point, though, is they were made in her private office in a stressful week. And they weren't made in a public place. And nor were they intended for that.
"That doesn't excuse it, not for a second. And she made the appropriate apologies to her staff and rectified that."
According to The Australian newspaper, the remarks were made on February 15, the same day that news.com.au published the story of Ms Higgins alleged rape.
At the time, Senator Reynolds had refused requests in writing for a response to the claims for four days, before calling Ms Higgins a "lying cow" over her account of how the office handled her allegations.
Mr Morrison stressed she had never questioned her account of the alleged rape.
"The third one I want to be very clear about is she was not making those comments, as she said to me this morning, in relation to the allegation of sexual assault,'' Mr Morrison said,
"She was not saying that about that, at all. Her comments, she said to me, related to the further commentary about levels of support provided, and her frustrations about how she felt that they were doing everything they believed in their power to provide support, clearly, over a period of time there was a very different view about that. And we've acknowledged that, and that's why we're addressing the issues the way that we are."
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Asked if she should resign, the Prime Minister said they were made in "private".
"She has deeply regretted them," he said. "She made them in a private office. She immediately apologised. It was soon after, I should say.
"She apologised to the staff about making what were inappropriate comments, long before it became public. And what is - I would just simply say to people - you know, it's been a very traumatic several weeks for many people. People directly involved by these events who are our primary concern. But equally, there have been others who have been drawn into this. They're human beings.
"They say things that sometimes they deeply regret. I'm sure that all of you have found yourself, at a time of frustration, perhaps saying things you regret. And I would simply ask you, given the comment was made in a private place, that you offer the same generosity to how you perceive something you might have said, and perhaps apply the same standard to Linda Reynolds who, at the time, was under significant stress.
"She deeply regrets it. They were offensive remarks. She should never have made them. I don't condone them. But what matters is that we continue to address the substance of the issues here, as we are."
Originally published as PM backs minister over 'lying cow' slur