Harriet Harman has refused to admit mistakes were made over a historic paedophile rights campaign to which she has been linked, insisting she stood by her actions "all the way through".
The deputy Labour leader insisted the Paedophile Information Exchange (PIE) was "challenged" and "pushed aside" during its affiliation to a civil rights organisation she worked for and claimed she was the victim of a "politically-motivated smear campaign".
Ms Harman and her MP husband Jack Dromey broke their silence after the Daily Mail ran a series of stories about their actions while officials at the National Council for Civil Liberties (NCCL) in the 1970s.
The body granted "affiliate" status to PIE and is said to have lobbied for loosening of laws. Former health secretary Patricia Hewitt, who was also involved in the NCCL, has also faced accusations but has not commented.
The newspaper, however, accused Ms Harman of issuing a denial "full of pedantry and obfuscation" and claimed the shadow culture secretary failed to answer the main charges it has levelled against her and instead denied allegations it had not made.
Ms Harman last night repeatedly sidestepped questions over whether it had been a mistake to allow PIE to be affiliated to the NCCL, telling BBC 2's Newsnight anybody could join "simply by paying a fee".
"NCCL was an organisation where any organisation could pay their affiliation and join it and that's the way it was. It didn't have an expulsions policy," she said.
Asked "yes or no" if it was a mistake to allow the affiliation, she said: "On the basis that it has created, somehow, a sense that NCCL's work was therefore tainted by them, yes, obviously that is a very unfortunate inference to happen. It is not the case that my work when I was at NCCL was influenced by PIE, was apologising for paedophilia, or colluding with paedophilia, that is an unfair inference and it's a smear."
Pressed on why she would not just say it was a mistake for any link to have been allowed with PIE, she replied: "Because they were challenged and they were pushed aside from their views having any influence on NCCL."
Ms Harman then rounded on the Daily Mail claiming it was "not above producing photographs of very young girls".
"This is the Daily Mail aggressively trying to completely reshape the facts of a situation 30 years ago," she said. "It is ironic that they are accusing me of supporting indecency in relation to children when they themselves are not above producing photographs of very young girls, titivating photographs, in bikinis.
"I stand by what I was doing at NCCL and I stand by what I have done all the way through."
She added: "I think if there is anybody who has over the years supported indecency it is much more the Daily Mail than it is me and that's the frank truth of it."
The Daily Mail has run a series of articles on the claims and has devoted four pages in today's edition to the story.
It issued a statement criticising Ms Harman for failing to answer its central points or apologising to victims of PIE.
A Daily Mail spokesman said: "For 10 weeks now the Mail has repeatedly asked three leading Labour figures to answer questions about the involvement of the NCCL, a body in which they played leading roles, with a vile paedophile group whose actions are currently being investigated by the police.
"The belated statements today of Ms Harman and her husband - full of pedantry and obfuscation - failed to answer the Mail's central points and deny allegations the Mail has not made.
"More pertinently they have failed to utter a word of contrition or sorrow about the NCCL's closeness to the notorious Paedophile Information Exchange, an organisation that validated the activities of a monster like Jimmy Savile. Nor do they utter a word of apology to the victims of PIE."