A Slovakian lawmaker has faced backlash after sharing an image on Facebook of the president’s daughter.
Tomáš Taraba — a populist and independent MP — has been accused of “attacking” 17-year-old Emma Čaputová after she appeared in a fashion show.
President Zuzana Čaputová — the first woman to ever hold the post — has slammed the lawmaker’s social media post.
“Attacking a politician over his or her children is a political low,” she said on Facebook.
“MP Taraba would never have been interested in my daughter if it was not related to my function.”
“Human wickedness and stupidity is what I have to face in life, but leave my children out of it,” she added.
Several other Slovakian politicians have voiced their support for the President and her family, condemning Taraba’s post.
Police in the country have also labelled Taraba’s remarks as “cyberbullying,” but the MP has dismissed the criticism and denies the accusations of online harassment.
“Human wickedness and stupidity”
The controversy centres on a photo from a Slovakian Fashion LIVE event, that was re-shared by Taraba — a former member of the far-right People’s Party Our Slovakia (ĽSNS).
Emma Čaputová, the younger daughter of Slovakia’s President, had appeared as a model during Sunday’s show event.
“After yesterday we know that we have a new top model in Slovakia,” Taraba said on Facebook, alongside an enlarged photo of the 17-year-old girl.
Online users believed the comments were derogatory about Emma’s appearance or that Taraba had implied she had been given special treatment to appear in the fashion show.
The MP was widely criticised online for his remarks, with Fashion LIVE describing it as a “public attack”.
“We find it totally unacceptable that MP Taraba publicly humiliated the President’s daughter and call on him to publicly apologise,” an Instagram post read.
But Taraba has rejected the accusations and says that he himself has been a victim of online “bullying”.
The 41-year-old MP — who left ĽSNS to found the populist Život narodná Strana party — responded to the criticism in a Facebook video.
“I wrote that we have a new model in Slovakia, and that’s it,” Taraba told his followers. “I did not write anything other than that one sentence.”
“It is an exemplary case of cyberbullying”
Taraba’s Facebook status is also being assessed by the authorities as an attack on a minor inciting hatred and bullying.
Police said in a statement that Taraba had “crossed boundaries” with his online comment about Emma Čaputová.
“A person who is supposed to be a person of high authority decided to subject an underage girl, who is not even 18 years old, to a public lynching,” police said.
“It does not matter whose daughter it is. It is a barefaced attack on a child just because of her appearance.”
“It is an exemplary case of cyberbullying. It’s medieval. It’s something that the police force has been fighting against for years,” the statement added.
“It is a graphic demonstration that callous behaviour on the internet can reach a level of bullying that can lead to the greatest of human tragedies.”
Slovakian police have added that cyberbullying is a “real global problem” that has increased during the COVID-19 pandemic.
President Čaputová’s office has since urged online users not to respond to the MP with “vulgarities and more hate”.