Listhaug reacted to Sven Egil Omdal – a columnist with newspaper Stavanger Aftenblad - who wrote on Facebook that the cross which she is commonly seen to be wearing was a “political prop, used to impress the strange group that thinks xenophobia is a Christian virtue.”
In the post, Omdal included a picture of Listhaug speaking at Oslo Symposium, where she wore a crucifix over the top of a black turtle neck. The minister has also worn such a necklace on several other occasions.
But Omdal claimed that, having looked through an archive of pictures of Listhaug dating back to 2001, he did not find "a single one“ in which she wore a cross prior to her appointment as immigration minister in 2015.
The Progress Party (Fremskrittspartiet) minister – often controversial in Norway for her tough stances on integration - told broadcaster NRK that Omdal was guilty of spreading ‘fake news’.
“It is important for me to correct him. It is a piece of jewellery that means a lot to me, that I have had for many years and that gives me comfort, especially when a lot is going on and I need to perform,” Listhaug said, adding that the demanding nature of her post is connected to her wearing the cross more.
“I have clearly needed it more over the last year. I don’t think there are many politicians who have been subject to as many claims and attacks from all sides as I have, or who have such a difficult job as I do, so of course I uses all the resources I can to give me the strength to get through it,” Listhaug said to NRK.
The Norwegian immigration minister posted a response to Omdal on her own Facebook page on Sunday, calling it “the most shameful attack I’ve ever seen, and that’s saying something,” and accusing “experienced press man” Omdal of spreading “fake news”.
Listhaug posted three pictures from 2006 and 2007 in which she is wearing a cross.
She went on to accuse journalists and the media of “having an agenda” against her.
“They don’t have standards, they don’t care about facts – everything is fine as long as me or the Progress Party is in the crosshairs,” Listhaug wrote.
Omdal later responded to the evidence presented by Listhaug – and other commentators who had found pictures of her wearing a cross – by saying that, in the database of the Scanpix news photography agency used by him, he had not come across the 2006 and 2007 photos, although admitted he had missed one from 2008.
“Of 631 pictures over 14 years, there is one where she is wearing a cross. I stand corrected,” wrote Omdal.