POLITICS
12/18/2013 03:06 EST | Updated 02/17/2014 05:59 EST

Liberal MP Gerry Byrne sorry for 'intemperate' comments about Pamela Anderson

CORNER BROOK, N.L. - A Liberal MP in Newfoundland says he is sorry for "intemperate" comments he made on social media after actress Pamela Anderson and Sam Simon, co-creator of "The Simpsons," visited his province offering fishermen money to stop hunting seals.

Gerry Byrne has posted an online apology to Anderson and Simon, who were in St. John's, N.L., on Tuesday to offer $1 million to the Canadian Sealers Association to help bring an end to the commercial hunt.

According to a screen grab of his Twitter account, posted online by CBC, Byrne tweeted: "Hey Pam, here's a thought. Take your million and donate it to...sexually transmitted disease prevention education. Good self-promotion."

Another message from his account referred to Anderson and Simon as "a has been 'actor' with an incurable STD and a guy dying of cancer."

Anderson was diagnosed with hepatitis C in 2001. Simon's terminal cancer was detected through much of his body last year.

In the apology on his website, Byrne says his comments were the result of "frustration, disappointment and anger" after hearing comments about the seal hunt and those who conduct it by people opposed to the industry.

"I truly regret, however, my reaction which I would describe as intemperate and unnecessary," he said.

"To all whom I have offended in any way, including Ms. Anderson and Mr. Simon, I sincerely apologize and retract the statements I made on social media. Our strong differences regarding what I believe to be a humane and sustainable harvest of seals off the Canadian coastline and what others may see it as may remain but I apologize for stepping beyond that debate."

Byrne said he understands that hepatitis C is contracted through sexual activity on relatively rare occasions and treatments are available for people living with the disease.

"With this knowledge, I should have assisted in fostering the proper context of this illness and reaffirmed that those who suffer from this affliction should not be stigmatized," he said.

"Two wrongs do not make a right and, as I said within minutes of posting my initial comments, I retract and apologize to all including to the organizations and institutions that support those affected. I will be a stronger advocate for all those who bear this disease in the future."

People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, which helped organize the visit from Anderson and Simon, released a statement from Anderson saying Byrne's comments weren't appropriate for an MP.

"Mr. Byrne's juvenile remarks seem better suited to someone running for class clown than coming from an elected official," Anderson said in the statement.

Byrne was unavailable for comment.

Joan King, vice-president of British Columbia-based HepCBC, said Byrne should have checked his facts before posting false information.

The non-profit organization's mission is to provide education and support to people living with hepatitis C.

"You have to think before you write," King said. "These were written statements, so it's a little bit more than something off the cuff."

She welcomed Byrne's offer to advocate for those with the disease.

"He should probably be tested," King said. "Everyone is at risk as far as I'm concerned."

An estimated 250,000 Canadians are living with chronic hepatitis C, which is caused by a blood-borne virus. Left untreated, the disease can lead to liver failure, cirrhosis and cancer.

Researchers have said the disease can take many years to progress without causing noticeable symptoms — even up to two or three decades — and they estimate about 35 per cent of those carrying the virus have no idea they are infected.

The Canadian Liver Foundation recommends that all Canadians born between 1945 and 1965 be tested.

— By Michael Tutton in Halifax