CANBERRA, March 4 (BBC) - Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison has said his defence minister "deeply regrets" making "offensive remarks" about an alleged rape victim.
Linda Reynolds has not denied a report that she referred to her former aide Brittany Higgins as a "lying cow".
When asked if Ms Reynolds should quit, the PM said her remark had come "in her private office in a stressful week".
Ms Higgins' accusation that she was raped by one of Ms Reynolds' ex-advisers has rocked the government.
Last month, Ms Higgins alleged she had been attacked in Ms Reynolds' office after a night out in 2019. The man was later sacked for a separate reason.
The Australian newspaper reported Ms Reynolds had made her disparaging remark on the day Ms Higgins told her story to the media.
In a statement, Ms Reynolds said she had never questioned Ms Higgins' allegation.
"I did however comment on news reports surrounding circumstances that I felt had been misrepresented," the defence minister said late on Wednesday.
On Thursday, Mr Morrison said he had spoken to Ms Reynolds and she had acknowledged the comments were "inappropriate and wrong".
Ms Higgins' decision to go public has prompted a wave of other allegations - including a rape accusation against Attorney General Christian Porter which he strongly denies.