Norwegian MP Listhaug in new media controversy after ‘propaganda’ over retirement home

Sylvi Listhaug, Norway’s former justice minister who stepped down from the post earlier this year after causing outrage with a controversial Facebook post, has again clashed with media over claims made on the social network.

Norwegian MP Listhaug in new media controversy after 'propaganda' over retirement home
Sylvi Listhaug on May 1st. Photo: Ørn Borgen / NTB scanpix

Listhaug wrote in a June 13th Facebook post that “Labour and the city council in Oslo are throwing out the elderly at St. Halvardshjemmet [retirement home, ed.]. Residents and relatives cried. Now they are using the nursing home as accommodation for Roma people. Have they no shame?”

Newspapers including Aftenposten, VG, Dagsavisen, Nationen and Stavanger Aftenblad all strongly criticised Listhaug in opinion pieces written over the weekend, news agency NTB and Dagbladet report.

“(The situation claimed by Listhaug) would most certainly have been worthy of condemnation. The problem is that it quite simply isn’t true. And Sylvi Listhaug knows that better than anyone,” Harald Stanghelle of Aftensposten wrote.

Stanghelle also wrote that Listhaug was guilty of spreading the “provocative message that our own elderly must make way for unwanted Roma people”.

Listhaug’s claim was based on a report that 60 people were moved from the retirement home to more modern residences within Oslo Municipality with private bathroom facilities.

The claim that the purpose of this was to accommodate Roma people was deemed “completely false” by, a fact-checking collaboration between Norwegian media.

“The last [elderly] residents at St. Halvardshjemmet moved out six months before Kirkens Bymisjon opened emergency accommodation in the building for poor travellers. It was Bymisjon that decided to move this accommodation to the already-closed nursing home, not the city council,” writes.

“St. Halvardshjemmet was closed because it did not fulfil the requisite quality demands Oslo Municipality sets for elderly residential homes,” the fact checker also writes.

VG wrote in its editorial that although Listhaug’s post was “correct in itself”, she phrased the post in a “grossly misleading” manner, calling her claim “propaganda”, NTB reports.

The former minister was muddying debate with “gross disinformation”, the editorial continued.

Listhaug herself denied that she had spoken out of turn.

“Nothing I have said out posted is incorrect. I can see that VG admitted this in its article. The City Council in Oslo, led by Labour and the Socialist Left party, has been caught with its trousers down and is trying to make this issue about me instead of what it’s actually about,” NTB reported her as saying on Monday.

The nursing home named in Listhaug’s post is not managed by the municipality but by charity Kirkens Bymisjon (City Church Mission). Part of the reason for the closure of the facility is due to the fact it did not have shower facilities in every room, a requirement introduced when Listhaug herself sat on the city council, Dagbladet writes.

Critics of Listhaug’s claim have also noted that it is the Ministry of Justice, rather than Oslo Municipality, which is responsible for finding accommodation for Roma people.

The former minister dismissed the notion that residents at the care home had been moved due to the lack of adequate facilities in their rooms.

“It is complete nonsense to make this about old requirements. There are exceptions to the rules on bathroom facilities. As many as 550 rooms in municipal care homes in Oslo do not have their own showers, and there are no plans to close them,” she said in a written comment to NTB.

She also noted that there are 283 fewer places at care homes in Oslo than at the time of the last local elections in 2015.

READ ALSO: Sylvi Listhaug resigns as Norway's justice minister


Leader of Norwegian populist party to step down

Siv Jensen, the former finance minister and leader of the anti-immigration Progress Party, has announced she is to leave the role and quit parliament.

Leader of Norwegian populist party to step down
Siv Jensen. File photo: AFP

“I have today informed the nomination committee in the Oslo Progress Party that I do not wish to be re-elected to parliament,” she said at a press conference at the Storting parliament.

“As such, I have also notified the party’s election committee that this, naturally, means the party must select a new leader at its national conference in May,” she continued.

Norway is scheduled to hold general elections later this year.

“It has not been easy to take this choice. But I am completely convinced that it is the right choice for both the party and me,” she said.

Jensen has already given her blessing to Sylvi Listhaug, the hardline former immigration and integration, and later justice minister, as her successor. Listhaug is the current deputy leader of the right-wing party.

The outgoing leader also backed Ketil Solvik-Olsen, a former second deputy leader, as the next deputy leader.

“They are to outstanding politicians who dare to be innovative, clear, take on debates and challenge the existing truths,” Jensen said.

The former minister has been a member of parliament since 1997 and took over as Progress Party leader from Carl I. Hagen in 2006.

She was finance minister from 2013 until January 2020, when the Progress Party withdrew from the governing coalition.

Jensen said her party’s recent sluggish poll ratings were not rated to her decision to step back from politics.

“I have, in all my time as party leader, said that it is a job and lifestyle which demands 120 percent, 24 hours a day all year round,” she also said.