A Liberal Party candidate has resigned after admitting to making anti-Muslim comments on Facebook.
On Friday morning in a statement obtained by WIN News in Tasmania, she admitted she was behind some “ill-advised and misinformed comments in the past” and tendered her resignation. In the statement, Whelan did not clarify which comments she posted.
BREAKING: Here is a statement from Lyons candidate Jessica Whelan. While she's left the Liberals I can also confirm she will be running as an independent. #politas #auspol #ausvotes @WINNews_Tas pic.twitter.com/7qoJowVn6f
— Holly Corbett (@holly_corb) May 2, 2019
In one of the remarks, a person who appears to be Whelan commented on a news report by Nine News posted to Facebook about Minneapolis police officer Mohamed Noor who shot dead Australian Justine Damond Ruszczyk in 2017. “He’s a filthy Muslim!” it read.
Federal election 2019: Liberal candidate Jessica Whelan facing more questions over anti-Muslim posts – Australia Votes – Federal Election 2019 – Politics https://t.co/91hNHv4njP pic.twitter.com/SszpBTWyIN
— Sortiwa (@Sortiwa) May 2, 2019
The same person, identifying themself as Whelan, commented on another post about the Australian flag on One Nation candidate Malcolm Roberts’ Facebook page, writing: “I care about our safety. How about we have a referendum on whether or not we close our borders to Muslims? Now that I would vote for.”
On a post about refugees being sent to Armidale on a far-right, anti-Muslim group’s page, a Facebook user with Whelan’s name and photo commented: “Don’t bloody send them to Tasmania, we don’t want them.”
— Samantha Maiden (@samanthamaiden) May 2, 2019
Despite admitting to some of the posts, Whelan strongly denied she had made vulgar comments on a post about feminists, genital mutilation, and Muslims, claiming it was digitally manipulated.
The comment read: “Round them up Donald, cut their clitorises off and sell them to Muslims in Muslim countries and cancel their passports. You’ll make a mint.”
— Kiera (@KieraGorden) May 2, 2019
“Jess Whelan vehemently maintains that she did not make the vulgar post reported in yesterday’s media,” the statement from the Liberal Party said. “However, she accepts that she has made some of the other posts in question.”
Prime Minister Scott Morrison addressed Whelan’s comments on Thursday and said the Australian Federal Police (AFP) would be brought in to investigate.
“On Jessica Whelan, the imagery that we’ve found or that has been presented to us appears to have been doctored, so what Jessica has done is this matter has been referred to the Australian Federal Police,” he said, according to the Sydney Morning Herald.
In a comment to Business Insider Australia, the AFP confirmed it has received a referral in relation to this matter. “While it is being assessed, it would not be appropriate to comment further,” the spokesperson said.
On Friday, Morrison said new posts had surfaced overnight and that had changed his understanding of the matter. By Friday, the Liberal Party said in a statement that they had accepted Whelan’s resignation.
“Clearly these posts are inappropriate, and the Liberal Party was not aware of their existence until they were reported. Therefore, she has offered her resignation as a candidate and the Liberal Party has accepted it,” it said.
Business Insider Australia has contacted Facebook for further insight and has not been able to independently verify these screenshots. The Tasmanian Liberals and the Liberal Party have been contacted for further comment.
UPDATE: This story has been updated following the release of a statement by Whelan, denying additional comments.