Women MPs urge David Seymour to apologise for Golriz Ghahraman remarks

A cross-party group representing women in Parliament has urged David Seymour to apologise for remarks he made about Green MP Golriz Ghahraman.

The Green MP revealed to Newshub on Tuesday that she would be escorted by a parliamentary security guard after the ACT leader labelled her a "menace to freedom" in New Zealand.

Seymour responded to the letter saying he was "disappointed" to receive it, and that the group "seem to believe that expressing a sincerely held view on an important topic makes me responsible for threats of violence".

Signed by Labour MP Louisa Wall and National MP Jo Hayes - co-chairs of the Commonwealth Women Parliamentarians (CWP) New Zealand group - the letter asks that Seymour "reflect" on his "behaviour".

"We ask that you reflect on your behaviour and consider offering a public apology to Golriz for the comments made, preferably in the House," the letter addressed to Seymour reads.

The co-chairs said they'd received requests from members of the CWP group urging them to "take appropriate action" on their behalf in response to comments made by Seymour "in reference to a member of the House, Golriz Ghahraman".

The letter acknowledged how Seymour didn't make the comments in Parliament and couldn't be held to account by Standing Orders - the rules of procedure for the House.

But it went on to tell Seymour: "We, as women MPs, consider your behaviour towards a colleague who has been under attack with death threats and is already in a vulnerable position is unacceptable".

Seymour said the comments he made "do not come close to giving me such responsibility", adding: "Your belief would absolve the real perpetrators, those making the threats, of responsibility.

"You also introduce a worrying implication that some MPs are unable to fully participate or be criticised because there are violent threats. You are effectively letting violent thugs set the agenda."

Seymour's original comments came days after a Newshub story revealed white supremacists had discussed violence against Ghahraman on a closed forum online.

When asked on Tuesday if he felt responsible for the increase in threats made against Ghahraman, Seymour said: "No, I'm not responsible."

"We should both be against the kind of bullying from people who are criminals because it is a crime to threaten someone with violence."

The controversy stirred up last week when he told Magic Talk: "I just think that Golriz Ghahraman is completely wrong, I don't know if she understands what she is saying, but she is a real menace to freedom in this country."

Reflecting on that, Ghahraman said on Tuesday: "There's language there that is triggering of certain communities and that includes the white nationalist community, and that language may have fed into that."

Seymour doubled down on his remarks on Wednesday, saying: "The response to my recent comments on free speech proves we cannot trust Government to enforce hate speech laws."

House Speaker Trevor Mallard told TVNZ Seymour's remarks about Ghahraman amounted to bullying, saying: "In my opinion that did step over the line."

But he said it wasn't a breach of privilege because it didn't happen in the House. He also said it wasn't a criminal offence "but I think it showed poor judgement".

Seymour said Mallard was "the latest to denounce my views and try to shut down any criticism of those who would take away our right to freedom of expression".

He said the ACT Party will "continue to defend the critical principle that nobody should ever be punished by the power of the state on the basis of opinion".

Ghahraman's partner, comedian Guy Williams, said on Twitter the Green MP has been "incredibly brave" for dealing with racist abuse and death threats.