Otago regional councillor

PHOTO: “I’m afraid the toxicity of social media is killing freedom of speech,” Cr Laws said. RNZ

According to the ODT an Otago regional councillor has been criticised online for “sexist” remarks.

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But Cr Michael Laws said the reaction to comments he made on his personal Facebook page showed how social media was stifling expression.

“I’m afraid the toxicity of social media is killing freedom of speech,” Cr Laws said.

He wrote on Facebook: “When did girls with lovely faces/breasts but unhealthy bums/legs become sexy?”

He went on to say the “icons” he was referring to could not run 100m because they were “fat”.

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After screenshots of the post from Wednesday were shared on Facebook and Twitter, he told the Otago Daily Times the comments were intended to address a long-standing issue for him, the obesity epidemic.

He stressed they were personal thoughts and had nothing to do with his elected role on the council.

“For the past 10 to 15 years I’ve raised the obesity epidemic as New Zealand’s greatest public health crisis — written columns, done talkback shows, even been in a TV doco.

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“In each of those forums, I’ve raised the role model issue and the appalling example being set our young by those claiming that surgically enhanced, made-up poster girls who are obese … are somehow great examples for our youth.”

It was nothing he had not said many times before.

“I won’t be shut down by whiners and whingers who think obesity and morbid obesity are good things,” he said.

Dunedin real estate agent Richard Knights posted Cr Laws’ comments on “What’s News Dunedin”, his Facebook group with nearly 8000 followers.

“Please remember this post when making your vote for ORC councillors this year,” he wrote.