Andrea Leadsom’s campaign manager has accused journalists of using “spin and underhand tactics” against the former Tory leadership candidate.
She stepped down from the race today two days after coming under severe criticism for comments she made to The Times about motherhood.
Leadsom accused The Times of “gutter journalism”. However the paper’s recording of the interview appeared to back up its account of the conversation with reporter Rachel Sylvester.
The Times, Sunday Times, Daily Telegraph, Sun, Daily Mail and Mail on Sunday have all also came out against Leadsom in leader comments.
Media criticism of Leadsom has focused on her lack of experience, her previous public support for membership of the European Union and claims that she embellished her CV.
A week ago the Mail on Sunday used the front-page headline: “HYPOCRITE!” to describe her shifting stance on the issue of EU membership.
Leadsom did not mention the media in her resignation statement.
But heer campaign manager Tim Loughton MP said: “Throughout our short campaign we have made it clear that we should be relentlessly focussed on the positive case for electing Andrea as Leader without the need to undermine the qualities of her opponents.
“Despite an onslaught of often very personal attacks from colleagues and journalists we have never deviated from that goal.
“Colleagues who have chosen to further their own ends by putting smear above respect will no doubt account for their motivations but it is genuinely puzzling to understand who they think they are helping. It is certainly not our party or our constituents.
“It is absolutely not the job of media commentators to ‘big up’ politicians whether in this leadership contest or elsewhere in politics. But neither should it be their compulsion constantly to try to trip them up.
“Using spin and underhand tactics against decent people whose prime motivation is to serve has for too long undermined the confidence of the public in our politics. This need not be inevitable.
“It is this much needed fresh start to how we do our politics that was to be the centre piece of Andrea’s campaign and which we must together progress whatever her role in the future.”
A source close to Leadsom told BBC political editor Laura Kuenssberg “the abuse has been too great” for her during the contest.
Former Labour spin doctor Alastair Campbell said on Twitter: “So there we are. A referendum that was about the people choosing our leaders has led to a new PM being decided by one very silly interview.”