Tan Kin Lian says Tharman was 'quite gracious', assured him 'malicious' people are not from his team

Tan Kin Lian says Tharman was 'quite gracious', assured him 'malicious' people are not from his team
PHOTO: AsiaOne

The fallout from Tan Kin Lian's "pretty girls" Facebook posts rumbles on.

Even after his nomination as a candidate for this year's presidential election was confirmed on Tuesday (Aug 22) afternoon, the 75-year-old faced a barrage of questions at a doorstop interview about the claim of a "smear campaign" against him.

Earlier in the day, Tan wrote in a blog post that there is a "concerted effort" to smear him.

Speaking to reporters at the nomination centre over at People's Association headquarters, Tan reiterated that there is a group of "malicious" people out to "attack and criticise" him, and that they are "most likely" from his competitors.

The former NTUC Income chief, who was accompanied by his wife, said that he had spoken to fellow presidential candidate Tharman Shanmugaratnam.

"He asked to speak to me, and Mr Tharman was quite gracious. He assured me that they are not from his team," said Tan. "Of course, I'm not too sure whether he knows what somebody else is doing on his behalf."

Tan ruled out that the "malicious" comments have anything to do with his other opponent Ng Kok Song.

"I have been the subject of smears for more than 10 years. Mr Ng was not around and these smears, of course, come from one political party," he added.

Besides pinning the blame on the media for being responsible for the "smear campaign", Tan also claimed that a "top opponent" is involved in a statement earlier this morning. He has since removed the latter reference.

While Tan has "withdrawn this suggestion", Tharman said that "it certainly goes against everything he represents."

"I have nothing to do with it, and I'm very sure that no one in my team has anything to do with it," he added in the doorstop interview today. 

'Most pretty girls feel quite happy when I say they are attractive': Tan

Tan had occasionally made references to "pretty girls", "pretty joggers" and "pretty slim girls" on his public Facebook page, and there are at least 20 such posts.

A TikTok video compiling several of such posts went viral over the weekend.

The Association of Women for Action and Research (Aware) said on Monday (Aug 21) it shared the public's concerns that a candidate who has a history of objectifying women has been cleared to participate in the presidential election.

The gender equality group said that consistently posting about "pretty girls", recording videos of women in public without their consent or commenting about their appearance reduces them solely to their appearances for personal entertainment, and suggests that it is acceptable to trivialise women.

In a Facebook post on Tuesday (Aug 22), Tan's daughter, Tan Su Ling, said that Aware's Facebook post is "a bit overblown".

Describing herself as a mother to two daughters, the 49-year-old Su Ling said: "I do not think that a light-hearted compliment given to a good looking person, whether a man or a woman, should ever be equated to 'objectifying' them.

"I believe that women should have the confidence to reject the simplistic notion that a compliment on their looks trivialises them, overlooks their myriad abilities and contributions' and reduces them solely to their appearances for personal entertainment."

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In the doorstop interview on the same day, Tan said that he wants to ask Aware what the issue is.

"I did say there are some pretty girls, but the pretty girls take the effort to dress up to be attractive," he added. "And when I say that they are attractive, most of them actually feel quite happy. I don't know why somebody would want to use that as a negative ploy."

But Tan offered his apologies, adding that he did so "in case" some women feel uncomfortable about his Facebook posts.

chingshijie@asiaone.com

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