The Drag Industry Variety Awards (DIVA) have backed down after claiming Pauline Hanson had not been invited to attend the 2011 awards ceremony.

DIVA public relations firm Evans Media alerted press on September 28 that Christina Dior and Lola Del Arté would invite Hanson on behalf of DIVA “to be an official guest at this year’s 21st anniversary awards and also to be an award presenter,” at an event at Manly being filmed for Channel Nine’s Celebrity Apprentice.

But the following day, despite photographs being published online showing Dior and Del Arté with Hanson, the DIVA committee issued a statement in which it claimed that “no official invitation has been made to Pauline Hanson by the DIVA Awards and she has in no way officially accepted”.

Another statement released on October 1 reversed the denial that an invitation had been made.

“A verbal invitation was extended to Pauline Hanson on Wednesday … to attend this year’s DIVA as a guest … at a charity event to raise funds for the Joanne MacKay Breast Cancer Foundation,” the statement read.

“Due to certain members voicing objections post publicity, no official invitation was sent by the committee to Pauline Hanson’s office [and] we have spoken directly to Pauline Hanson to advise her of this. The DIVA Awards Committee would like to apologise to anyone in the community who has been offended … No further comment will be made on this matter by the DIVA committee.”

The contradictory statements and the decision to invite Hanson were criticised by long-time DIVA participant Verushka Darling, who said organisers should have simply apologised in the first place rather than denying the invitation.

“This was total doublespeak,” Darling said. “That they invited Hanson in the first place showed incredibly poor judgement. There are a million and one more positive people they could have invited.

“But having made that mistake and realising the backlash, they needed to nip that in the bud — instead we saw this.”

In 1998 Hanson said that broadcasts of the Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras should be “R rated”, while in 2008 she told the Star Observer that people with HIV should be prevented from entering Australia.

The Star Observer is a Diamond media partner of the 2011 DIVAs.

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