Australian Federal police were asked to investigate the authenticity of social media posts reportedly made by now former Liberal party candidate Jessica Whelan in the comments section of a Donald Trump post.
Whelan denied she was behind the comments, saying her account was hacked and the content was digitally altered.
Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison, who is popularly known as “Scomo”, issued the following statement to ABC news:
“The imagery that we have found that has been presented to us appears to have been doctored, and so what Jessica has done, this matter has been referred to the Australian Federal Police, and so that is a matter that will be… it is being referred i should say, to the police, and this is a matter that will be subject to an investigation.”
On May 3rd, News.com reported on Scomo’s “embarrassment” from backing Ms Whelan. Mr Morrison stated that the comments from her account do not represent the views of the Liberal party:
Journalist: Was the problem that her comments actually represent the views of some in the party. Her mistake was just putting it on social media?
PM: Her views were her views and they do not represent the views of the party I lead and they do not represent the views of the Liberal Party. These views were not disclosed to the Liberal Party at the time of her nomination, that was confirmed last night.
Journalist: They were aware yesterday?
PM: No, they weren’t, the information in front of us yesterday was not the information that we were able to receive overnight.
Journalist: Have you been lied to?
The Australian reports that the former Tasmanian candidate for Lyons has stated that she has received death threats toward her and her children from the social media scandal:
“I have been receiving threats to the level I could never have imagined. Phone calls, voicemails, messages and emails have made those close to me startled and afraid. These have included messages to kill my children and myself.
“It saddens me that people who put their hand up to represent the people of Australia are subjected to such vicious personal attacks from their opposition, born directly from their fear of losing.”
Whelan will run as an independent, though she will still be listed as a liberal party candidate on the ballot paper.
She has told The Examiner newspaper that “there’s a good chance” she will work with the Liberal party again:
“I have put in so much effort and I feel free of the Liberals to defend myself … If I’m elected, there’s a good chance I will work with the Liberal Party. I resigned because I knew I had to for the party, but I can now defend myself.”
Ms Whelan has stated that she does not want to be seen as a Pauline Hanson, meaning that Whelan likes multiculturalism in Australia.
Melbourne Labor party candidate Luke Creasey has also resigned after making offensive comments online, namely rape jokes, as well as lesbian and Catholic jokes.
“While I made those awful comments many years ago and they in no way reflect the views I hold today, I understand, especially as a member of the LGBTIQ community, that we need to be careful about what we share or like on social media.”
Labor Party opposition leader Bill Shorten said Creasey’s circumstances are different to those of Ms Whelan’s:
“This Jessica Whelan, she said what she believes now, and it reflects on what she believes now,” Mr Shorten said of the then-candidate for the Tasmanian seat of Lyons, who has since resigned.
“What our fellow said, he said it seven years ago, when he was 22, and he’s clearly regretted and apologised for it.”
By Penny Hoffmann