RNZ, Wellington, August 7, 2018
National’s Leader Simon Bridges will not be disciplining one of his MPs for calling on the Prime Minister to denounce a story about child sexual abuse – even though it turned out to be fake.
Judith Collins tweeted the story from a website known to be a purveyor of fake news yesterday and was quickly called out on it.
But Mr Bridges will not reprimand her, saying that everyone is prone to a social media controversy, including himself.
“I have liked things before, actually genuinely accidentally. I think that when you are scrolling through things, you know that has created its own little controversy,” he said.
That is what Mr Bridges is calling Ms Collins’ sharing of an article off a fake news website: An Accident.
The website that she has shared is known for pushing Russian narrative propaganda, according to one Twitter user, and was apparently involved in Brexit and US election interference.
It is also known for conspiracy theories regarding pop stars, ‘revealing’ Katy Perry as a cannibal and Justin Bieber as a shapeshifter.
Another Twitter user pointed Ms Collins to an article on the same website reporting a real life vampire outbreak in New Zealand.
Others asked whether the Prime Minister should also be denouncing the sinister alliance of the Loch Ness Monster and Bigfoot.
Guidelines not needed
But despite the faux pas, Mr Bridges does not believe guidelines around fake news are necessary and will not be enforcing them on his party caucus.
“I don’t know if I would particularly set down rules or expectations about this,” he said.
“I think in this case Judith Collins feels strongly about the issue, that’s legitimate. But it is a wrong source, she acknowledges that, and we should in general try and get them right.”
The story Ms Collins shared is based on a real news story. France is passing legislation that will make it easier to prosecute crimes of sexual violence against minors.
But the country’s President Emmanuel Macron is facing criticism for stopping short of introducing an age of consent.
When asked whether should be denouncing anything on day one, back from maternity leave, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern was much more careful.
“There is a lot of fake news out there, and I want to make sure that I am well-versed before I respond to anything like that.”
Ms Collins didn’t respond to RNZ’s requests for comment on her tweet.
Gia Garrick is a Political Reporter at Radio New Zealand. Indian Newslink has published the above Report and Picture under a Special Arrangement with www.rnz.co.nz
Picture of Simon Bridges and Judith Collins by RNZ