Maria Miller’s Parliamentary Private Secretary says her role on equal marriage and media reform explains why certain newspapers want her to resign – claims rejected by several commentators across Fleet Street.

In an interview on Tuesday afternoon, Conservative MP Mary Macleod admitted sending a message to other Tory MPs, saying: “I believe there is a media witch-hunt on Maria due to Leveson.

“How do you feel about it? Happy to answer any questions you may have she would really appreciate your support. Many thanks Mary.”

Asked whether she believed newspapers were focusing on the Culture Secretary and Minister for Women and Equalities because of her involvement in the response to the Leveson Inquiry, Ms Mcleod said: “I think it’s Leveson and probably equal marriage as well.”

Defending her colleague, Ms Macleod told Sky News: “I don’t think the public necessarily know all the details of the case because in some of the newspapers it’s been like a witch-hunt where they don’t like the work Maria Miller has done on Leveson and gay marriage. Therefore what they are trying to do is find a way to get her out of her job.”

When asked to name the newspapers behind the witch-hunt, Ms Macleod refused to be drawn.

Mrs Miller was last week ordered to repay £5,800 and apologise to MPs after over-claiming expenses on her mortgage.

Work and Pensions Secretary Iain Duncan Smith at the weekend came to the defence of Maria Miller, saying she is facing a possible backlash for “the gay marriage stuff”.

As Minister for Women and Equalities Mrs Miller was responsible for steering the government’s same-sex marriage legislation for England and Wales through the Commons.

However, many commentators have rejected suggestions that Mrs Miller is facing a rough ride in the press due to her support for equal marriage.

Guardian columnist Deborah Orr rejected the claim on Twitter.

Political Editor of The Mirror, Jason Beattie, tweeted that it lacked evidence.

Ned Simons, assistant political editor at The Huffington Post, noted how the story was dominating publications that had always supported equal marriage, such as The Guardian, Independent, London Evening Standard and The Huffington Post.

Meanwhile, in her first public comments on the issue since she made a much-criticised thirty-two second apology to MPs last week, Mrs Miller, the Conservative MP for Basingstoke, told the Basingstoke Gazette that she had always sought to do the “best job” she could in representing her constituents.

“I am devastated that this has happened, and that I have let you down,” she said.

Writing in weekly column, she added: “I have unreservedly apologised for the way I handled and approached the inquiry. And I am pleased that the committee has fully dismissed all of the allegations made against me.

“Separately, I have already apologised and repaid an over-claim of my expenses, having myself drawn the committee’s attention to the matter immediately I was aware of it.”