National deputy leader Bill English says he is consulting lawyers after a gay website launched an attack on his teenage son, accusing him of posting "extreme homophobic abuse" on a social networking website.
On the House blog: A politician's son - in the public interest?
Yesterday, English branded as "disgusting and sick" an article on gay website GayNZ.com that named one of his teenage sons as behind a series of derogatory comments on homosexuals.
GayNZ.com reported that one of English's sons was posting and hosting anti-homosexual comments on the Bebo website and that gay and lesbian support groups were "shocked" by the remarks.
The website claimed English's son had continued his postings even after it made English aware of his son's alleged activity.
The Bebo webpage referred to in the GayNZ. com article was shut down yesterday afternoon, but The Press viewed it earlier yesterday.
There was only one apparent anti-homosexual reference on the site, which said: "First ever win against the 6th form geeks. Into the regional competition where some coll fags are gonna get stabbed with katanas (Japanese swords). Excellent."
GayNZ said more offensive remarks had been posted, and it had been alerted by readers.
It had referred the pages to English and his office for comment, but none had been forthcoming.
"After numerous but fruitless attempts to discuss the posted statements and the values taught in the English household with Mr English or his spokesperson, we were eventually curtly told that there would be 'no comment' forthcoming," GayNZ said.
The website quotes various gay and lesbian groups as saying they are saddened by homophobia on the internet.
It also questioned English's commitment to "Christian values" since English is a practising Catholic.
English told The Press he had no comment to make on the story, but later issued a statement saying he was seeking legal advice on the article, which he said made unsubstantiated claims "about the supposed views" held by his son.
"I consider this a disgusting and sick attack on a young teenager," English said.
"I expect any statement I make to be scrutinised no-one expects the same scrutiny of every comment by anyone on an open teenage social networking site.
"All family members of public figures should be alert to the fact that any internet activity is now fair game for politics."
National leader John Key said the gay website's attempts to put the spotlight on his deputy leader's son over alleged anti-gay comments was "despicable".
Mr Key said the website had broken a long-standing convention that the children of politicians should not be dragged into public debates.
Mr Key said the only reason Mr English's son's alleged comments were being singled out was because he was the son of the National Party's deputy leader.
"It's a bit of a despicable act ... This is being raised, I would argue with you, for political reasons - not because he is anyone else's son, but because he is Bill English's son," Mr Key said on TVNZ's Breakfast programme.
"There are thousands of young New Zealanders out there that write on social networking sites. They're not being brought to task and politicians' children should be left out of the public domain."
Mr Key said social networking sites and some of the conversation on them could be "pretty rugged".
"But the reality is this has gone on since kids started talking behind the bike sheds. Part of growing up is expressing yourself. I'm not defending it, I'm just simply saying these sites are out there."
GayNZ.com editor Jay Bennie said on TV One News last night he too was seeking legal advice.
"We believe it's a very important story, we believe that legally there is nothing wrong with the story," Mr Bennie said.
- with NZPA
- The Press
Decide what news you want to receive when it suits you
Keep up with the latest news by making us your homepage
What do the stars have in store for you today?
Test your mind with our puzzles
The Little Things, Dilbert, Tom Scott and others