Nick Clegg has dismissed reports that his wife shaped his decision to take on Lord Rennard as "compete garbage", as the row opened up bitter divisions within the Lib Dems.
On Wednesday, the Daily Telegraph reported that Miriam González Durántez, had raised concerns with the deputy prime minister that the party had “let down” female activists.
But Clegg told LBC radio this morning that the story was "total garbage" and "a complete work of fiction". The Lib Dem leader said any conversations between him and his wife "would take place in the privacy of the Clegg kitchen".
And he said while the Daily Telegraph was entitled to "make stuff up about me" it should not "drag Miriam into it" as politicians families should be left alone.
Clegg is resisting calls to reinstate the peer at the centre of the sexual harassment scandal engulfing the Lib Dems as the threat of legal action stokes party divisions.
Ex-Liberal Party leader Lord Steel urged the party leadership to "get a grip" on the crisis and lift the threat of expulsion from Lord Rennard.
But Clegg told a meeting of his MPs that it remained the "right judgment" to suspend the former party chief executive over his refusal to apologise to the women behind the claims.
Lord Rennard has instructed a QC specialising in public law to advise him on the "lawfulness or otherwise" of the decision to launch a second inquiry into his conduct.
The move fuelled speculation that the former party chief executive - who has always denied the allegations against him - could seek an injunction blocking the inquiry.
A first inquiry, by a QC, found that while there was insufficient evidence to bring disciplinary charges, the women's claims were credible and Lord Rennard should apologise to them.
His refusal to make that apology despite being ordered to by Clegg is now the subject of an inquiry into whether he has brought the party into disrepute.
Supporters of the peer dismissed the latest inquiry as no more than a "re-run" of the first.
Friends of Lord Rennard insist that he does not want the case to end up in the courts but claimed that attempts to resolve the issue through mediation had been blocked by Lib Dem president Tim Farron.
With one of the women whom he is alleged to have harassed refusing to rule out a counter claim against the peer, the Lib Dems are faced with the prospect of becoming embroiled in a series of damaging court battles which could drag on for months.