25 May 2009

Lee says volunteer sent joke email about media

9:50 pm on 25 May 2009

National's candidate for the Mt Albert by-election says she did not approve or know of an email a volunteer sent in her name which joked about wanting to take a gun to media.

List MP Melissa Lee was at a candidates' debate at the Unitec campus in Mt Albert when she was asked about the email on Monday.

Stacey Knott, editor of the Unitec's student magazine In Unison said Ms Lee's remarks were in response to a questionnaire that she had emailed to all candidates.

Ms Knott said the questions were based on the theme of players, including: 'Of the following accessories what would you choose - a diamond ring, a grill or a gun?'

Ms Knott says Ms Lee "chose a diamond ring so that she could knock some sense into the media, but then she said that a gun would be quite tempting."

Ms Lee says a volunteer sent the email without her approval.

"Obviously one of my volunteers thought they were helping me, and they might have had an opinion about the media, but that's not how I feel."

On Friday, Ms Lee committed one of the worst errors a politician can make - admitting defeat - telling Morning Report she probably will not win the by-election in June.

She later backtracked on the politically damaging statement, saying she is in the campaign to win.

Ms Lee has also been struggling with fallout from earlier comments that the proposed Waterview motorway would stop criminals from South Auckland going to Mt Albert. She was branded a racist over her comments, and has since apologised.

On Thursday, Ms Lee was cleared of allegations regarding her use of New Zealand on Air funding during the 2008 general election.

The by-election will be held on 13 June to fill the seat vacated by former Labour prime minister Helen Clark. The Mt Albert electorate has been held by Labour since its formation in 1946.