The sister of murdered MP Jo Cox has said the family will support her widower over accusations of sexual harassment.
Brendan Cox has quit two charities set up in his wife’s name following the claims and apologised for the “hurt and offence” that some of his past behaviour had caused.
In a statement, Kim Leadbeater said: “This is another very difficult day for our family”.
She added: “As a family we will support Brendan as he endeavours to do the right thing by admitting mistakes he may have made in the past, and we respect him for doing so.
“We all make mistakes. Brendan is a wonderful father and I have no doubt about the happiness he brought to Jo.
“My other focus is to wholeheartedly continue the work I have begun through the More in Common movement at a local and national level and to support The Jo Cox Foundation in continuing its valuable work.”
A colleague at the Jo Cox Foundation told Sky News: “The person described in these allegations is not the Brendan we know.”
They added: “People have looked up to him and while we are all upset to read some of the stuff that has been printed, those people need to know that they are right to admire him for everything he has said and done since Jo’s death.”
The claims against Mr Cox were made by a former colleague at Save the Children and reported in the Mail on Sunday.
It was claimed that in the year before his wife was fatally shot and stabbed by a far-right terrorist during the Brexit referendum campaign in June 2016, Mr Cox sexually harassed one of the charity’s workers outside a bar in London. He left his role with Save the Children shortly afterwards.
The 39-year-old acknowledged he “made mistakes” before leaving Save the Children, but he claimed the allegations against him were a “massive exaggeration”.
He denied a further allegation in the newspaper that he forced himself on a woman during a trip to Harvard University.
In an interview with the Mail on Sunday, Mr Cox refused to say what his wife – who he married in 2009 – knew of the claims.
But he did say: “We never pretended that we had the perfect relationship, or the perfect marriage.
“We had difficult times, we had amazing times, but I’m not going to recount conversations I had with her because she’s not here.”
Mr Cox admitted there were “instances” where his behaviour had made people feel uncomfortable and were viewed as inappropriate, adding: “I think that charge is a fair one.”
He continued: “Certainly, I had too much to drink at times.
“I probably behaved in a way I thought was sort of jokey, or flirtatious. I often wasn’t being serious, but that was perceived differently by others.”
Labour MP Yvette Cooper told Sky’s Sunday with Niall Paterson show that Mr Cox has “done the right thing”, adding “there is a wider issue here”.
She said: “Hopefully we are seeing a change in climate and culture, where people are recognising that those in positions of power should not abuse positions of power, those who end up becoming victims of harassment should have support to speak out and there should be systems in place that allow this to be dealt with.”
Save the Children has responded to the Mail on Sunday’s reports, saying the safety and wellbeing of its staff is “of the utmost importance” and that the complaints were investigated.
The charity said in a statement: “When complaints are made we investigate in accordance with our procedures. This was exactly the case in 2015. Mr Cox was suspended and a disciplinary process commenced.
“The panel included independent trustees and a QC, and the process was administered by a London law firm. Mr Cox resigned before it could be completed.”
It added that it would not be complacent and its safeguarding processes are always evolving.
“Like others in the charity sector, we are now looking again at our processes for handling complaints.
“It is vital that our hard-working staff, our beneficiaries and those who work with us are safe and can speak out without fear if they have any concerns,” it said.
“Kevin Watkins, who took over as chief executive in late 2016, told UK staff last week that he would show ‘zero tolerance’ of any disrespectful behaviour. Mr Watkins has ordered a review to establish whether the system for dealing with complaints about behaviour in the workplace can be further improved.”