18 August 2015
by Sarah Michael

Mark Latham forced to quit column after claims he used fake Twitter account to abuse women - including Australian of the Year Rosie Batty and a transgender army officer

Former Labor leader Mark Latham has resigned as a regular columnist at the Australian Financial Review newspaper amid allegations he uses a parody Twitter account to troll women.

The Fairfax newspaper released a statement on Monday afternoon confirming his resignation 'amid controversy over his views on feminism and other social issues'.

Mr Latham had been a regular columnist at the AFR for eight years but informed editor Michael Stutchbury he was resigning on Sunday.

'Mark has been a provocative and highly readable columnist for the Financial Review,' Mr Stutchbury said in a statement.

There is speculation a parody Twitter account @RealMarkLatham is actually run by Mr Latham himself

The @RealMarkLatham account in an exchange with Ms McGregor, where she is addressed as 'Mal' - the name she went by before transitioning into a woman

'He has been both loved and hated by readers – sometimes by the same ones at different times.

'While I didn't agree with everything Mark wrote, he has played a significant role in Australian public life and brought rare personal insight into his writing.'

This comes after senior military officer Group Captain Catherine McGregor, who is transgender, and Westpac bank made complaints to the AFR over Mr Latham's columns, Buzzfeed reported.

Mr Latham described Ms McGregor as a 'He/She', and suggested Australian of the Year Rosie Batty was commercialising her son Luke's murder, in columns published by Fairfax's AFR.

Ms McGregor complained in a leaked email to AFR editor-in-chief Michael Stutchbury that she found Mr Latham's remarks hurtful and derogatory.

'It was actually deeply offensive and bizarre but that's your Mark,' she wrote. Leaked emails also show Westpac, which sponsors the AFR's annual Women Of Influence Awards, complained to the newspaper about the 'derogatory nature of comments made by Mark Latham published in the AFR.'

A Westpac spokesman told Daily Mail Australia: 'Westpac rejects certain comments made by Mark Latham and we have expressed our concern. However, we believe these comments should not take away from the achievements and recognition of these inspiring women.

'Mark Latham’s column is the responsibility of the AFR and it would not be appropriate to comment on any discussions we may have had around these issues.'

In a statement the AFR said Mr Stutchbury 'appreciated the nature of the complaints about Mr Latham's columns and accepted there was always a line that responsible publications must not cross'.

The statement continued: 'But he defended the Financial Review's right and even duty to publish provocative opinions that some readers and non-readers might find offensive, as this was a hallmark of a vibrant democracy. The various controversies surrounding Mr Latham raised important issues about the robustness of public speech in a social media world.'

This comes amid speculation the parody Twitter account @RealMarkLatham is run by Mr Latham himself, after Buzzfeed reported a number of similarities between language used on the account and language used in Mr Latham's AFR column.

Mr Latham has not responded publicly to the speculation.

On Monday, the @RealMarkLatham Twitter account posted: 'The Dismissal: The AFR has sacked poor Latho, who has retired to Mt Hunter Lodge for a rump steak (medium-rare). Maintain The Page.'
Last week, @RealMarkLatham referred to Ms MsGregor as a 'he/she' after she tweeted: 'Got to love Michael Stutchbuy @FinancialReview . Lets his Court Jester Mark Latham refer to me as He/She. 2015 trans has come a along way.'

The account responded with a serious of offensive tweets.

In June, Mr Latham's newspaper column targetted Australian of the Year Rosie Batty, whose son Luke was murdered by his father.

Mr Latham criticised Ms Batty for joining the public speaking circuit and becoming 'commercialised'.

'How did Batty immerse herself in such company, wheeled out at business functions to retell the story of her son's murder in February 2014?' he wrote for the AFR.

'This is one of my pet gripes about modern society: the way in which serious issues and events are converted into bizarre forms of celebrity.'

After Ms Batty responded to the column and labelled Mr Latham 'uninformed' and 'ignorant', the @RealMarkLatham account began trolling her.

'@RosieBatty1 Coming from you, such a great judge of male character, I'll take it as a compliment' @RealMarkLatham wrote.

Mamamia founder Ms Freedman is also regularly targetted by the @RealMarkLatham account The @RealMarkLatham account trolls media personalities including Tara Moss and Leigh Sales
The @RealMarkLatham account trolls media personalities including Tara Moss and Leigh Sales Mamamia founder Mia Freedman, who has also been targetted by the @RealMarkLatham account and Mr Latham's AFR columns, questioned why the newspaper continued to employ him as a columnist.

'Stutchbury remains defiant, resisting all pressure to stop giving a platform to a man who has been called a "national health risk" for the way he aggressively tears down anyone who dares speaks out about mental illness or domestic violence,' Ms Freedman wrote.

'So what will it take for the editor to act? More transgender abuse? More misogyny? Further attacks on Rosie Batty who has surely suffered more than any human should have to in a lifetime without Latham putting his proverbial boot in?'