DUP leader Arlene Foster is suing gay Embarrassing Bodies doctor Christian Jessen for defamation over a tweet alleging she was having an affair.
On 23 December, 2019, Jessen made a reference to Foster’s anti-LGBT+ beliefs in a tweet that claimed she was cheating on her husband with her protection officer.
He called Foster, who has relentlessly tried to block same-sex marriage in Northern Ireland, “the sanctity of marriage preaching woman” and added: “It always comes back to bite them on the arse in the end.”
Jessen deleted the tweet on 7 January, 2020.
According to the BBC, on Wednesday, Foster told Belfast’s High Court that her director of communications had alerted her to Jessen’s post about the “unsubstantiated rumour”, which was spread by anonymous Twitter accounts.
She said that explaining it to her husband was “upsetting”, adding that it was “an attack on me personally and my marriage, meant to destabilise me at a very critical time”.
She continued: “It was very humiliating to see that the relationship that’s most important to me had been trashed if you like and put out there in the public domain in that fashion.
“One of the things that gives me stability is my home relationship – it was almost as if this cut to the very core of my life.”
David Ringland QC, representing Foster, Jessen had been contacted by a solicitor the day after he posted the tweet, asking him to remove. He reportedly refused.
The court also heard that Jessen, who was not represented in court, had been approached 13 subsequent times by letter and email, but had not responded.
When he removed the tweet in January, Jessen finally responded with a “pithy” email. Ringland said there had been “no correction, retraction or apology”.
Arlene Foster said she gets “very distressed” when she’s called homophobic.
Asked in court about her views on same-sex marriage, Arlene Foster insisted she is absolutely not a homophobe.
She admitted that she takes “the traditional view, the church-based view” of marriage, but said: “I do get distressed when people call me a homophobe because that’s something I am not.
“I have many friends who are homosexual, they know my views and in any event same-sex marriage is now the law in Northern Ireland and has to be upheld.
“I have never in my own utterances said anything in relation with people who are homosexual and that’s why I do get upset when people call me a homophobe.”
The judge has reserved judgement in the defamation case, but has said it will be dealt with as a “matter of urgency”.