Ukip would-be leader Bill Etheridge hits out at 'unfair personal attacks'
A Ukip leadership candidate has branded as "beneath contempt" the party colleagues he accused of ridiculing him after pictures of his prescribed Viagra tablets were posted on-line.
Bill Etheridge said he was not afraid to challenge the stigma around erectile dysfunction and related mental health problems.
The West Midlands MEP has contacted the police after the images of his medication were apparently posted on social media by a former girlfriend.
Addressing the furore as he took part in a leadership hustings event in Country Antrim, Mr Etheridge said: "It's been a difficult 24 hours for me.
"The media has descended on me due to painful, unfair and personal attacks by a woman I once loved.
"It's been difficult but I'm not afraid."
The picture of the tablets was reportedly accompanied by a tweet questioning Mr Etheridge's suitability for the top job. The posting has since been deleted.
Mr Etheridge has hit out at "spiteful" elements in the party's leadership race to replace Nigel Farage for allegedly seeking to capitalise on the situation.
"I've been ridiculed and criticised by people inside and outside my party," he told the audience of around 25 party members in a hotel at Belfast International Airport.
"Well let's face one issue head on - sexual and mental issues are important."
He went on to outline statistics illustrating the extent to which men's sexual health problems impact on couples worldwide.
Noting that only a third of men with problems seek help, he added.
"It's because of the stigma, ladies and gentlemen, it's a difficult thing to face.
"And these kind of issues can lead to depression - it's a serious issue of mental health and mental health is one of the great unspoken issues that our country faces today.
"To ridicule men seeking help for this type of condition is below contempt and is below this great party.
"It is not something we must laugh at, ridicule, speak nonsense about - we need to understand this is a very, very serious issue."
Earlier Mr Etheridge claimed posting a picture of the erectile dysfunction medication represented a "serious breach" of his privacy and as a result he had referred the matter to the police.
He was one of three of the five Ukip leadership candidates who took part in the hustings. Mr Etheridge, Lisa Duffy and Philip Broughton all made pitches to the region's party faithful before taking part in a question and answer session.