Opposition leader Judith Collins has put former National candidate Jake Bezzant on blast over an alleged online sex scandal, calling him a "possible sociopath" and expressing relief he didn't make it into Parliament.
Earlier this week Tarryn Flintoft, an ex-girlfriend of Bezzant's, alleged he impersonated her online and engaged in online sex as her, using nude images and videos exchanged during their relationship.
In a statement to Newshub on Wednesday, Bezzant said there were "two sides to every story" and requested the claims be "seen in the context of a relationship break-up".
But another former partner of his has since come forward alleging he created a fake profile using her name too, in an effort to lure men into sending illicit images. Bezzant did not respond to Newshub's request for comment on this allegation.
Asked about the scandal at a press conference on Friday afternoon, Collins said the allegations amounted to "one of the most disgraceful things I've ever seen in politics".
"I'm just so pleased he's not an MP," she told reporters, adding that she'd first been told about it on Tuesday evening.
"People can see I'm very concerned about what he did… I had no idea what he was actually doing and what sort of a clearly fantasist, possibly sociopath he is."
Collins said it's clear from a National Party culture review that its candidate selection process needs to be changed.
"The whole selection process needs to be looked at… We shouldn't just rely on referees that people give us when looking at candidates, we should look further. People never give you the referees they don't want you to ring.
"In today's world of social media, of people living overseas coming back here with all sorts of stories about things, I don't think we can always take everything on face value of what they've done and their character.
However Collins added "almost all of our candidates were totally fine", and said "she didn't think people in the party were on Snapchat looking for Jake Bezzant and his perversions, frankly".
On Thursday, Newshub revealed National Party leadership wanted Jake Bezzant gone during the election when questions were swirling around embellishments on his CV, but president Peter Goodfellow shut down concerns.
In a statement to Newshub, Goodfellow said some concerns were raised in mid-2020 "solely relating to previous commercial business matters", and these were thoroughly investigated.
"This included questioning Mr Bezzant and talking to people involved in the business in question. We found insufficient evidence to substantiate the concerns raised, therefore considered the matter closed."
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern earlier this week pledged to look into New Zealand's harmful digital communications laws to see if they can be tightened, so there are consequences for actions like the ones Bezzant is accused of.
"I'm interested in why that would be the case and just understanding a little bit more about whether or not we do have gaps in our legislation," she said on Wednesday.