Linda Reynolds retracts her 'lying cow' comment and issues a formal apology to Brittany Higgins

Former Liberal staffer Brittany Higgins said she was "pleased" that Defence Minister Linda Reynolds retracted her statement and that she had accepted her apology.

Defence Minister Linda Reynolds.

Defence Minister Linda Reynolds. Source: AAP

Defence Minister Linda Reynolds has publicly retracted a comment in which she called alleged rape victim Brittany Higgins a "lying cow" and has apologised directly to the former Liberal staffer.

Senator Reynolds made the comment in her office - and was heard by several staff members - on 15 February, the same day Ms Higgins went public with allegations she was raped by a male colleague in Senator Reynolds' office.

In a statement on Friday, Senator Reynolds said she had apologised to Ms Higgins on 5 March for the comment, which she said was never intended to be made public.

"I also want to retract it and unreservedly apologise to Brittany Higgins and acknowledge the hurt and distress it caused to her," the statement read.

Brittany Higgins has spoken out publicly about her alleged rape inside Parliament House.
Source: Supplied

"I did not mean it in the sense it may have been understood."

The statement comes after lawyers acting for Ms Higgins sent a letter to Senator Reynolds last Thursday, demanding a public apology and the withdrawal of the comment.

In the letter, lawyer Rebekah Giles, who is representing Ms Higgins, described the remarks as a “distasteful character assassination”. 

Senator Reynolds issued a formal apology the following day, stating: "I want to express how deeply sorry I am for these remarks and for any hurt and distress they have caused."

On Friday, Ms Higgins, who was 24 years old at the time of the alleged assault, said she was "pleased the minister has now withdrawn her comments and I accept her apology to me."

"This has been an immensely challenging period for me and I wish to reiterate that the only reason I have chosen to come forward is to help others," she said in a statement. 

She also said any money she receives from Senator Reynolds as part of the settlement of her claim against her, above her legal costs, will be donated to an organisation that provides support to survivors of sexual assault and abuse in Canberra.

"These funds will assist them in this important work," she said.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison has previously resisted calls for Senator Reynolds to be stood down, despite describing the remark as "offensive".

"They were offensive remarks. She should never have made them. I don't condone them. But what matters is that we continue to address the substance of the issues here, as we are," he said last week.

Ms Higgins has recently reinstated her formal complaint about the alleged incident with the Australian Federal Police, while three other women have since alleged they were assaulted by the same man. 

Senator Reynolds is currently on medical leave until next month. 

Published 12 March 2021 at 3:12pm
By Maani Truu