Nadine Dorries says she does not believe a fellow Conservative MP’s allegation that she was groped by Boris Johnson’s father, sparking anger.
Caroline Nokes has accused Stanley Johnson of smacking her on the backside – one of two allegations against him of inappropriate touching, prompting Labour to demand an investigation.
But, asked about Ms Nokes’ allegation, Ms Dorries told a Daily Mail interviewer: “I don’t believe it happened.”
The culture secretary said: “I have known Stanley for 15 years. He is a gentleman. It never happened to me. Maybe there is something wrong with me.”
Ms Nokes criticised Ms Dorries for having “used her considerable influence and power in the media to denounce me in this way”.
“I very much hope her attitude does not deter other women from being brave enough to report their experiences of public sexual harassment,” the former home office minister said.
Ms Nokes has already accused some journalists of trawling through her sexual history to “find some sort of defence” for Mr Johnson’s alleged behaviour, when they were both parliamentary candidates in 2003.
Her allegation prompted Ailbhe Rea, a New Statesman journalist, to accuse Mr Johnson of groping her at the Conservative Party’s annual conference in 2019.
The 81-year-old has said he had no recollection of either Ms Nokes or the allegation – while the prime minister has ducked calls for an investigation by the party.
Jess Phillips, Labour’s shadow minister for domestic violence, also criticised the culture secretary, saying: “I’m not entirely sure why she thinks Caroline would lie. Where’s the benefit?”
She said it is a “common mistake” for people to refuse to believe that friends or acquaintances cannot carry out sexual harassment or violence.
“It’s the thing that silences victims. It reminds them to shut up about their experiences, “ Ms Phillips said, adding: “I expected better from Nadine. I’m not surprised though, it’s the most common response to disbelieve.”
After revealing the alleged incident, Ms Nokes told Times Radio: “Even 18 years later, you can see people trying to turn it back on me, victim-blaming and shaming.”
But she praised Mark Spencer, the government chief whip, for having been “very supportive and very helpful”.
In the interview, Ms Dorries said she had never experienced men being “handsy”, replying: “But if you ask me have I experienced mansplaining, being talked down to because I am a woman, yes and yes.”
She said she did suffer the sort of abuse “that puts things in perspective”, from a vicar, who was a family friend, when she was nine. It was never reported to the police because “you couldn’t then”.