Australian Greens senator Sarah Hanson-Young says she is seeking legal advice over a sexual slur made by NSW crossbench senator David Leyonhjelm on Sky News yesterday.
Hanson-Young says Leyonhjelm should “do the decent thing” and resign from the Senate because “he has proven himself incapable of showing respect and is unfit to represent not only women, but all decent Australians in our nation’s Parliament”.
His potentially defamatory comments about Hanson-Young on Sky’s Outsiders program led to a hasty apology from the broadcaster, while a young female producer has been suspended after including Leyonhjelm’s comments in a strap line on the show.
Sky News wishes to apologise to Senator @sarahinthesen8 for broadcasting appalling comments by Senator @DavidLeyonhjelm earlier today, and for highlighting them in an on-screen strap. A producer has been suspended pending an internal investigation.
— Sky News Australia (@SkyNewsAust) July 1, 2018
Similar comments are also believed to have been made on Melbourne radio station 3AW.
The comment about a “well-known” rumour came after Leyonhjelm interjected during Senate chamber during debate about violence against women that Hanson-Young “should stop shagging men”.
When she subsequently confronted him about the comment, Hanson-Young told the Senate that he said her to “f..k off”.
“I asked whether I heard him correctly. He confirmed he yelled ‘you should stop shagging men, Sarah’,” she said.
“Shocked, I told him he was a creep. His reply was to tell me to ‘f..k off’.”
Leyonhjelm has refused to apologise or withdraw those earlier comments, despite a request from Senate president Scott Ryan.
The senator then doubled down on Sunday morning when speaking to conservatives Rowan Dean and Ross Cameron on Outsiders, saying his fellow senator is “known for liking men”.
Today, Hanson-Young said she was “seeking legal advice” over his latest comments.
“I will not be intimidated or bullied by offensive, sexist slurs,” she said on Twitter.
Thank you for all the words of support and care; they mean a lot to me. I am seeking legal advice – as many of you have suggested. As a woman, a sister and a mother, I will continue to stand up. I will not be intimidated or bullied by offensive & sexist slurs.
— Sarah Hanson-Young???? (@sarahinthesen8) July 2, 2018
In a statement today, Hanson-Young said Lyonhjelm’s public comments “are reprehensible, hurtful and no woman, whether in public or the privacy of her own home, deserves them”.
She did not comment on whether the media companies that broadcast his comments could also face legal action.
“It is greatly disappointing and it sends a damaging message to our community that Senator Leyonhjelm has been given multiple platforms to continue making these harmful remarks,” she said.
A senior Turnbull government senator, education minister Simon Birmingham, told Sky News today that Leyonhjelm’s comment was “appalling” and he should apologise.
“I would expect that apologies would be the appropriate order of the day,” he said.
On Friday, Hanson-Young wrote in the Guardian Australia that personal attacks in the Senate, as well as the level of nastiness, had gotten worse during her time in parliament.
“For years I have winced and tried not to flinch at innuendos about my dress, my face (being told by older men that I don’t smile at them enough) and my apparent sex life,” she wrote.
“What started as mutterings while I would be on my feet speaking, or during a debate, slowly over the years has become slurs that are now shouted across the chamber floor.”
In 2015, Hanson-Young won a defamation case against Bauer Media’s now defunct Zoo Weekly magazine after it photoshopped her face on a lingerie model’s body.
The magazine was forced to issue an apology and closed a few months later.
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