Wayne Bennett claims his account was hacked
The PC party is moving towards potentially disqualifying one of the three candidates from the party leadership race for allegedly racist comments made on Twitter.
Howley town councillor Wayne Bennett was always considered a dark horse for the leadership, before he made a splash on social media.
He’s endorsed New Democrat Sheilagh O’Leary over the Tory candidate in the upcoming Virginia Waters byelection, and he’s claimed that members of the PC party have hacked his Twitter account, threatened his life, refused to give him a 42 inch flat screen TV and failed to wish him a Merry Christmas.
But it was the postings on Friday, when he started talking about Muslim women and children that took things to another level.
Bennett said people on Twitter criticizing him were actually covert agents for the PC party, and he compared those people to terrorists.
Much of the criticism was coming from young Tories, including fairly well-known members of the social media community, but Bennett said their comments were still not to be taken at face value.
“Anyone can be a troll, including youth #nlpoli,” he wrote. “We used to trust Muslim women and children: not now.”
In response to criticism, Bennett again took to Twitter to defend himself.
“It is not racist: ask a (Canadian Forces) mother who’s son was blown up by trusting a Muslim female hiding a bomb.”
The postings have since been deleted, but several people archived them before they were taken down.
Tommy Williams, one of the two co-chairs of the PC leadership convention, said that they’ve done an investigation and handed their evidence over to the party’s rules committee.
What’s more, Bennett now says that it wasn’t him who deleted the tweets; he says that his account must have been hacked by agents for the PC party.
“I didn’t delete anything; I have not deleted one thing,” he said. “Somebody has hacked into my account again.”
Bennett said he believes that Municipal Affairs Minister Steve Kent is the online criticism, using fake social media accounts to make attacks anonymously.
The PC party rules committee could fine Bennett, sanction him or throw him out of the race.
Williams said that he doesn’t like what Bennett is saying, but he doesn’t think it reflects on the party.
“It’s unfortunate that Mr. Bennett has brought this kind of attention on himself,” Williams said. “It’s just that the issues that arose on Friday are of a very significant concern to both the premier and the party as a whole.”
He said Bennett’s comments are completely out of line with Progressive Conservative values.
“We find them to be offensive to be quite honest,” he said.
Even Premier Tom Marshall weighed in, telling reporters Monday that he thinks Bennett’s comments are out of line.
“The comments about not trusting Muslim women and children, I find that offensive,” Marshall said. “That comment in itself, I think it’s offensive to all of us.”
The rules committee is expected to come up with a decision by the end of the week.
Bennett did not respond to repeated requests for comment.
But on Twitter, he’s said that if the party does throw him out of the race, he’ll immediately challenge that decision in court.
But through it all, Bennett said he believes that the fiasco hasn’t diminished his chances of winning the PC party leadership.
“I think I’ve got a better chance now than I had yesterday,” he said. “People are fed up with how the PC party are conducting themselves in the province of Newfoundland and Labrador. They’re fed up with the shenanigans.”