JK Rowling has seemingly threatened an MP with legal action after being accused of defending misogynistic trolls, in an expanding row which has already seen at least one regretful tweeter donate to the author's charity.
The Harry Potter writer suggested she would sue Natalie McGarry, an independent Scottish MP who resigned the SNP whip in November, for libellous Twitter posts alleging she "defends abusive misogynist trolls" and hinted she would donate damages from the fallout to Lumos, a global children's charity founded by the Edinburgh resident.
In a bitter exchange on Twitter last night, McGarry called Rowling out for posting messages of support for 'Brian Spanner', a Unionist writing under a pseudonym she follows who has a self-admitted history of sending abusive tweets to pro-independence politicians.
— J.K. Rowling (@jk_rowling) January 28, 2016
Rowling, 50, continually called for proof she supported misogynistic trolling, 'dot-atting' (putting a full stop before beginning a post with one's name to make the post public) McGarry, until the Glasgow East MP eventually conceded and wrote a qualified apology.
"On reflection, I do apologise for any misguided inference that you support misogyny or abuse instead of the folk you tweet," she wrote.
But minutes later the 34-year-old was back in her anti-Rowling stride, re-publishing a series of historic tweets the author had sent conversing with and endorsing Spanner.
They were originally put together by Edinburgh-based tweeter Alan Ferrier, who weighed into the debate.
"You're like a poodle-fondling Yoda sometimes, Spanner. #wisdom," read one tweet from Rowling. "You're a good man, Brian Spanner," said another.
But the screenshots were doctored to have their dates removed, leaving readers gripped by the unfolding drama at risk of interpreting Rowling's support out of context and as a direct response to one expletive-riddled rant.
Rowling pointed out that the message calling Spanner a "good man" was in response to a separate post on his Twitter account, where he announced he was donating money to Lumos.
.@NatalieMcGarry *sighs* OK, Natalie, that's cut and pasted to suggest I said 'good man' to that tweet, not to fundraising for charity.— J.K. Rowling (@jk_rowling) January 28, 2016
One message of support from columnist Nick Cohen, saying he would "hold her coat" if Rowling decide to "sue the living daylights" out of McGarry, got her backing.
"Thanks Nick," Rowling wrote. "I'm thinking all damages to Lumos."
In a post just minutes earlier the author had mused to McGarry: "You don't appear to understand how Twitter or defamation works. I'm going to help you out with the latter."
.@NatalieMcGarry You don't appear to understand how Twitter or defamation works. I'm going to help you out with the latter.— J.K. Rowling (@jk_rowling) January 28, 2016
The MP promptly told her followers she was boarding a plane and went offline, only for it to emerge this morning that she had deleted several of her tweets and blocked access to people trying to view her account.
The original publisher of doctored tweets which were used to 'prove' Rowling's support of the so-called misogynistic troll Spanner, then admitted on Friday morning that after a night's reflection that his post had been "misleading, crudely presented and ill-advised".
"In retrospect, I should have left dates on the tweets to make it clear that I was not describing a conversation," Ferrier wrote.
Ferrier added he had made donations both to Lumos and 'Women for Independence', a pro-separatist campaign group co-founded by McGarry.
Rowling thanked him, saying both the apology and donations were "generous".
Ferrier was not the only one to issue an apology in the aftermath. Spanner also conceded to having written "abusive", "wrong" and "inappropriate" comments directed at female Scottish politicians.
@euanmaxwell He's right. Some of them were abusive. I've apologised.— Brian Spanner QC (@BrianSpanner1) January 28, 2016
@Margaret_Curran A tweet I made about you some time ago was retweeted to me. It was completely inappropriate & I apologise unreservedly.— Brian Spanner QC (@BrianSpanner1) January 28, 2016
@KarenMarjoram I've just seen a tweet I made about you some time ago. It was rude and unnecessary. I apologise unreservedly.— Brian Spanner QC (@BrianSpanner1) January 28, 2016
I've just been retweeted a tweet I made about you. It was entirely wrong & I regret its content.
I apologise.— Brian Spanner QC (@BrianSpanner1) January 28, 2016
A spokesperson for Rowling refused to comment on whether legal action had been initiated against McGarry.
A spokesperson for McGarry refused to comment.