The Labor MP Emma Husar says she has launched defamation proceedings against BuzzFeed for a “slut-shaming” story that led to her announcing she would not re-contest her seat at the next election.
An emotional Husar, who represents the Sydney seat of Lindsay, rose after question time on Thursday to declare she was “not a bully, I am not Sharon Stone, I am not a thief, and I did not deliberately misuse my work expenses”.
“I will fight for my integrity, for my family, and for Lindsay, which is full of battlers just like me and fight for every woman who comes after me,” Husar said. “I’m going to do my bit, Mr Speaker, to ensure that this never happens again”.
BuzzFeed revealed in July that New South Wales Labor had commissioned a barrister to investigate Husar after a number of former staff made complaints against her.
The independent investigation into complaints that staff in Husar’s office were subjected to bullying and harassment concluded that various allegations of lewd conduct and sexual harassment were not supported.
However, the review did find cause for further investigation into the allegations of the misuse of public entitlements. It also found that complaints that staff were made to perform non-work-related and personal duties for Husar did have merit.
In August, Husar declared “enough is enough” and announced she had made “the agonising decision” to leave politics on her own terms and not contest the next federal election.
She later reversed that decision, signalling she wanted to remain as the Labor candidate – but the NSW branch has moved on, and she will not win endorsement in the seat. Husar may run as an independent.
Husar on Thursday accused BuzzFeed, and the political journalist Alice Workman, of “shameless misrepresentation”. She said after the “gross misrepresentation, and the slut-shaming smears” were published and went viral, she was asked to resign as the member for Lindsay.
The Labor MP said BuzzFeed “knew I was bound by confidentiality under the Whelan process I was being examined by, but they went ahead and they published their slut-shaming story knowing, with full intent, that it would go viral”.
“Let me correct the record. They didn’t give me any notice in advance. They didn’t give me the opportunity to seek release from my confidentiality obligations so that I could respond,” she told the chamber.
“They didn’t give me the opportunity to use our legal system to preserve the confidential process until it had properly played out.
“Sunlight is always the best disinfectant and, today, I bathe those misrepresentations in a flood of light.”
Husar said she had launched defamation proceedings “to remind them that they are not above the rule of law in this great country of ours”.
A spokesperson for BuzzFeed told Guardian Australia: “We’re aware that proceedings have been issued. We’re considering our position with our lawyers and will respond in due course.”