National's Upper Harbour candidate Jake Bezzant is under fire for "endorsing racism" by liking a Twitter post describing Green MPs Golriz Ghahraman and Ricardo Menendez March as "parasites".
The Twitter post, which has since been blocked for violating the social media platform's rules, referred to Menendez March as "some Mexican" and described him as "another green parasite" like Ghahraman.
Bezzant, who sits at number 57 on National's list and ran in former deputy leader Paula Bennett's Upper Harbour electorate following her retirement from politics, appeared to defend his actions in the comment section of the post.
"I'm just a New Zealand citizen," he said, referring to the fact that he is not an MP. Labour's Vanushi Walters took out the Upper Harbour seat and Bezzant wasn't high enough on National's list to get into Parliament.
National leader Judith Collins declined to comment. A spokesperson said as Bezzant is neither a National MP nor a candidate, it wouldn't be appropriate for her to involve herself in this matter.
Bezzant still currently appears on National's list ranking at number 57. Newshub has contacted Bezzant for a response to the outry.
It's not the first time Bezzant has attacked Menendez March on Twitter. He described the Green MP as a "plonker" over debate about closing the gap on inequality.
Menendez March, who entered Parliament for the first time this year thanks to the Greens picking up two additional seats after the election, told Newshub he was not surprised at the attack.
"I'm not held back by the racism we face for being immigrants speaking up against exploitation, but it's clear we must stamp it out because it results in real harm," he said.
"Racism results in violence towards our communities, affects our employment opportunities and causes negative health outcomes. It is disappointing, yet not surprising, to see this particular racist online attack endorsed by a National Party candidate."
Ghahraman, who during her time as an MP has received death threats and had to be accompanied by a security escort, is equally disappointed.
"Last year Amnesty International identified online abuse for women and minority women in particular, as a key human rights issue in New Zealand," she told Newshub.
"When I see migrants and refugees described as parasites (as I am here) I think about our communities, feeling unsafe and unwanted. And it does make us unsafe when abuse like this is encouraged by someone endorsed by the National Party for Parliament, especially after the March 15 terror attack.
"As MPs Ricardo and I are really privileged to have security and support that others don't have, my concern is for those out in the community who don't have similar protections."
Bezzant denied allegations during the election campaign about his employment experience raised in a BusinessDesk article claiming he misled his electorate.
The allegations concerned Bezzant's time at Parking Sense, a technology company. Bezzant was CEO of the company's US arm and he presented himself as the co-founder. But company records did not list Bezzant as a founding director or shareholder.
Paul Collins, who is listed as a founder, told BusinessDesk that Bezzant did not join the company until six months after it was founded.
National Party president Peter Goodfellow said during the election that the party was made aware of "some issues" about Bezzant but his version of events was accepted after an investigation and he continued as the Upper Harbour candidate.
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern sacked a candidate from Labour's list in July after it emerged he once praised a column describing Islam as a "Stone Age religion" and its followers as a "sorry pack of misogynist troglodytes from Wogistan".
Kurt Taogaga was ranked 68th on Labour's list.
"The opinions expressed in his tweets from 2013 do not represent the views of the Labour Party," Claire Szabo, Labour Party president, said at the time.
"The Labour Party is committed to inclusion of all religions and stands against intolerance. After these tweets came to light they were discussed with Kurt and he has apologised."