Prime Minister Scott Morrison yesterday offered his staunch support for Ms Whelan, running in the Tasmanian seat of Lyons, and insisted offensive social media posts made in her name were fake.
Mr Morrison said the material had been referred to the Australian Federal Police but now she has offered her resignation to the Liberals after they held emergency talks to remove her.
Simon Birmingham, the party’s campaign spokesman, appeared on Today this morning to say he expected Ms Whelan will not continue as the candidate.
“I expect, based on the additional information that has come to light, that she will not continue to be the Liberal candidate,” Senator Birmingham told the program.
He said it was up to the Tasmanian branch of the Liberal Party to deal with the matter this morning and that it was his “understanding that they’re taking steps to do so”.
Senator Birmingham said the content was unacceptable.
“We won’t tolerate that. We won’t accept that. Scott Morrison has taken a strong stance in this regard.”
“The state executive of the Liberal Party in Tasmania will be taking steps to deal with this candidate.”
Shortly after 8am, Ms Whelan issued a statement via a spokesperson saying she was quitting.
“Jess Whelan vehemently maintains that she did not make the vulgar post reported in yesterday’s media,” it read. “However, she accepts that she has made some of the other posts in question.”
She conceded that the posts were inappropriate and said 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.”
There are serious questions about why the Liberals stood by Ms Whelan, leaving Mr Morrison exposed. The AFP has also said it received no referral from the party about the posts.
The controversy erupted yesterday with a report in The Mercury newspaper containing posts from Ms Whelan, including one suggesting women have their genitalia mutilated.
“Round them up Donald, cut their clitoris’ off & sell them to Muslims in Muslim countries & cancel their passports. You’ll make a mint.”
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Another post attributed to her attacked Muslim immigration.
“Given that your profile states you went to College at ‘Never lose hope in ALLAH’. I hope you’re bloody NOT on our housing waiting list. You shouldn’t even be in Australia if you believe in ALLAH!” it read.
A spokesperson for Ms Whelan told the newspaper that screenshots of the comments had been doctored in an attempt to smear her.
He said they would be referred to authorities for investigation. It was an excuse that apparently satisfied the Prime Minister.
The Mercury newspaper has published more questionable remarks attacking Muslims and making derogatory comments about politicians in the Apple Isle.
“I care about our safety,” Ms Whelan wrote to former One Nation senator Malcolm Roberts.
“How about we have a referendum on whether or not we close our borders to Muslims? Now that I could vote for.”
In another post, she said about refugees fleeing conflict in Syria and Iraq: “Don’t bloody send them to Tasmania. We don’t want them.”
And in a comment regarding a state Labor MP’s video, showing her speaking in parliament, Ms Whelan wrote: “That’s a lot of boob on show that doesn’t really need to be seen.”
Today’s embarrassing U-turn from the Liberals follows an awkward appearance by Ms Whelan yesterday at an event with Mr Morrison.
She refused to answer questions from reporters and was shielded by Liberal campaign staff, before running to a waiting vehicle and leaving.
“The imagery that we have found, that has been presented to us, appears to have been doctored,” Mr Morrison said.
“And so that is a matter that is being referred, I should say, to the Australian Federal Police. And this is a matter that will be subject to an investigation.”
Ms Whelan’s disendorsement follows the departure of two Victorian candidates on Wednesday in a horror day on the campaign trail.
Peter Killin resigned in the wake of endorsing an extraordinary homophobic attack on prominent Liberal backbencher Tim Wilson.
Mr Killin made the remarks about Mr Wilson in the comments section of a blog by Christian right-wing figure Bill Muehlenberg, as first reported in The Age.
Another commenter, Michael Taouk, was complaining that the Liberal Party wasn’t doing enough to “remove preselection from that notorious homosexual Tim Wilson”.
Mr Killin replied: “Your observations about Mr T Wilson, federal member for Goldstein, are most pertinent at this point. Many of us will recall he was the openly homosexual who proposed to his boyfriend in parliment [sic].”
It came hours after Jeremy Hearn was dumped by the party over anti-Muslim comments made on social media.
He wrote taxpayers should stop funding Muslim schools because they were plotting a “rebellion against the government”.
“A Muslim is a person who subscribes to an ideology which requires the following: killing or enslavement of the citizens of Australia if they do not become Muslim, replacing the Australian Government and legal systems with sharia, lying about their purposes to conceal their activities,” he wrote in a comment on an article published by Quadrant.