The wife of Commons speaker John Bercow has apologised for implying that Lord McAlpine was the Conservative grandee involved in an alleged child sex ring.
Sally Bercow has denied her comments on Twitter were libellous, but admitted that implicating the innocent Tory peer was "the most stupid thing I've ever done" according to the Daily Mail.
Last week, tweets from her account fuelled rumours that McAlpine was the politician accused by former abuse victim Steve Messham of being part of a paedophile ring at a north Wales care home.
Bercow wrote to her 55,000 followers:
Why is Lord McAlpine trending? *innocent face*
— Sally Bercow (@SallyBercow) November 4, 2012
Days later, Lord McAlpine issued a lengthy statement addressing the rumours that he was involved in the ring, and announcing plans to sue over the highly damaging claims.
McAlpine, who lives in Italy and is reportedly in poor health, condemned online 'innuendo' for linking him with reports in the broadcast and print media, adding: "Even though these allegations made of me by implication in the broadcast and print media, and made directly about me on the internet, are wholly false and seriously defamatory I can no longer expect the broadcast and print media to maintain their policy of defaming me only by innuendo."
McAlpine's words triggered a huge crisis at the BBC after it was revealed nobody properly scrutinised Messham's claim, ahead of a story on Newsnight. Messham later withdrew his accusation, after admiting he did not know what McAlpine looked like.
Director-general George Entwhistle was forced to resign his position after just five weeks in the job.
Mum-of-three and rumoured future Labour MP Bercow issued an apology on Twitter on Monday writing:
Very sorry. Was irresponsible & mischievous. Libellous? I don't think so. But we'll have to see... — Sally Bercow (@SallyBercow) November 12, 2012
I have not heard from McAlpine's lawyers. Tho' I may do. As may *thousands* of Twitter users, some of whom tweeted *far* worse... — Sally Bercow (@SallyBercow) November 12, 2012
Bercow has garnered a considerable following on the micro-blogging site by being regularly 'off-message' in her tweets. Some commentators have even suggested that she is demeaning the office of Commons Speaker, held by her husband.
IBTimes contacted Mr Bercow's office at parliament but no comment was available at time of publication.