THE owner of the restaurant at the centre of a scandal over a sexist menu has reportedly apologised to Mal Brough, saying he created a mock menu as a light-hearted joke.
The LNP on Wednesday night released an apology from Joe Richards, of the Richards and Richards restaurant, saying the menus were never distributed at the $1000 a head fundraiser featuring Joe Hockey.
"Dear Mal, I have been following the rubbish that has been on the news today,'' the letter from Joe Richards reads.
"I would like to confirm what actually happened: there were never any menus distributed on the tables or in the restaurant.
"I created a mock menu myself as a light-hearted joke, however as I said I never produced them for public distribution.
"Unfortunately a staff member saw the mock menu, and unbeknownst to myself, posted it on their Facebook.
"It now appears that a third party for political reasons has distributed it, yet I can reassure you that no such menu was distributed on the night.
"As you know no one at the dinner was privy to such a menu, and it is so unfortunate that an in-house joke between myself and my son has caused you great problems and embarrassment.''
According to the ABC, the LNP has confirmed Mr Richards is a party donor, but says he was not asked to make the admission.
The amazing twist comes after Mal Brough had earlier apologised for the menu, while Opposition leader Tony Abbott condemned it.
Mr Brough told the ABC earlier that the menu was drawn up by a non-party member who thought it would be "humorous" and "didn't mean any harm by it," but is now "deeply apologetic".
The former Howard government minister insisted he could not recall seeing the menu at the event for 20 people, held on March 28.
"I didn't condone the menu nor did I authorise it...it should never have been written," he said.
APN has repeatedly tried to contact Mr Brough for comment, including on Wednesday night's developments.
A former worker at the venue where the function was held said he released the menu on Twitter last night after he was upset by comments Joe Hockey made about abortion.
The worker, who said he was not a member of a political party, said he first saw the menu when it was posted by a co-worker on Facebook. "I was just absolutely shocked,'' he said of his reaction.
He said he knew it was legitimate given the style of writing.
The man told the ABC he had earlier tried to flag it with the ALP, including his local MP Kevin Rudd, but there was no response.
"I just copied it. I tried to tweet it after the function, to send it to Julia Gillard, the Labor party [Sky news presenter] Peter Van Onselen and Kevin Rudd, my local member, but I didn't get a reply from any of them. I don't know if they were too busy to notice them at the time,'' he said.
Earlier, the LNP released a statement condemning 'in the strongest possible terms a menu card that was used as a small local event in March'.
"This card was not produced or authorised by the LNP or the candidate,'' the statement said.
"The content of the card was absolutely unacceptable and has no place at any LNP event.''
The reaction on Twitter to the latest twist has been mixed with some condemning the PM for calling for Mr Brough's head while others not believing that the menu had not been distributed.
Gillard called for Brough to be dumped
Earlier today, Prime Minister Julia Gillard called for Mal Brough to be disendorsed by the LNP over the menu which described her as having small breasts and big thighs.
The Prime Minister linked a menu at a fundraiser for Mr Brough to Mr Abbott previously standing in front of a sign depicting her as witch and comments by Alan Jones at a Young Liberal dinner about her late father, News Ltd reported
"This is Tony Abbott's Liberals, this is what they're like, the real risk for Australia is if Tony Abbott was ever Prime Minister it wouldn't be a question of what is on a fundraising menu, we would see this lack of respect for women littered through his government decisions," she said.
She called on the Liberal Party to strip Mr Brough of his pre-selection in Peter Slipper's seat of Fisher.
Angry voters have flooded Mr Brough's LNP Facebook page and Twitter calling for the former Howard minister to be dumped by the LNP over 'menu gate'.
While Mr Brough said he never authorised a menu which described Julia Gillard's small breast, big thighs and 'red box', some say he should take full responsibility for it.
Former PM Kevin Rudd says he has no doubt that Mr Brough would have known about the menu.
Hockey says there are bigger issues to fry
UPDATE: Shadow treasurer Joe Hockey fronted the media late on Wednesday, urging Ms Gillard to focus on "issues that matter".
Mr Hockey described the content of the menu as "inappropriate and wrong" and called on both sides of politics to treat each other with respect.
But he said job losses at Target and asylum seekers dying at sea were more important issues.
"I mean it's awful behaviour. Whatever was printed at that event ... was wrong. I don't recall having seen it, but seriously, is this really the biggest event in Australian today?" a clearly exasperated Mr Hockey said.
Mr Hockey said Ms Gillard had "effectively called us (Coalition MPs) misogynist pigs" at the Women for Gillard launch.
He also claimed the Prime Minister had recently referred to him as "fat man" in the Parliament.
"I don't think the Prime Minister is qualified to make these types of comments and I would urge her to focus on running the nation to deal with the issues that matter to Australians," he said.
"Let's just get our priorities right."
The reaction on Facebook today
"Tony Abbott said this about Slipper..."Tony Abbott took the unusual step of calling for a vote to immediately sack the Speaker, following revelations he used offensive language to describe female genitalia. " When will he say it to you?,'' Diona Kennedy wrote.
"Small breasts and a big red box'. You think this is a fitting way to describe a woman?,'' Stella Glorie asked.
"How would you feel if a woman you know or cared about was described in these terms? Shame on you.
David Parker said Mr Brough's pre-selection should be taken away to send a clear message that the LNP would not tolerate this sort of thing.
"That menu is disgusting and you wont be getting my vote .....if you had left it at Gillard quaill without the rest of it one could laugh at it but you took it the extra mile and added the breasts n thighs thing ....NOT GOOD ENOUGH.
"We the people are totally fed up with the personal putting down of other people and you need to smarten up your act if you hope to be elected.''
Paradisi Coaster said Mr Brough was a former government minister who should know better.
"You are as low as Alan Jones sucking to the bogan voters in your electorate. The bogans love it, they are the lowest things outside of prison. I don't think there are enough bogans in Fraser (Fisher) to get you elected.''
Kate Clinnick said she wanted to express her disgust at the "hideous, misogynistic fundraiser 'menu'.
"Regardless of where you fall on the political spectrum, you keep it clean and respectful. You are a politician, and politics is about rational and respectful debate,'' she wrote.
"You do not stoop to cheap, sexist insults to try and one up your opponent. Australia deserves better than that from its public servants. Shame on you.
Do you think Mal Brough should be dumped by the LNP?
This poll ended on 19 June 2013.
Yes. He must have known about the menu
No. He has apologised and had nothing to do with menu
Yes. Even if he didn't know he must take the fall
No. He is the best chance for the LNP in Fisher
This is not a scientific poll. The results reflect only the opinions of those who chose to participate.
Other comments posted on Mal Brough's site
Just when you think that sexism cannot be any more demoralising or degrading, this menu appears. You would never have done this to a male politician. Imagine if someone did this to your daughter. If people like you continue with this kind of sexism, it probably will happen to your daughter, by someone just like you. Sorry doesn't cut it. Don't do it in the first place and go and get educated about what equality means. Also, show respect to the Prime Minister of this country, regardless of who they are.
Mr Brough, I find the menu from your recent 'fundraising' dinner absolutely vile and appalling. It is not funny. It is sexist and vile. No excuses. It is not OK. You should publicly apologies to the Prime Minister and to women across the country for stooping to this low and perhaps rethink your own suitability as a Member of Parliament.
PS I hope (but doubt) that every female present at that function left immediately upon reading the menu.