National leader Collins says is shocked by the "nasty and dirty" bullying of a teen National candidate who has apologised for sharing a photo of himself imitating Hitler.
William Wood, 18, apologised yesterday for the image, which was taken four years ago when he was aged 14.
The photo, which has been reported on by media since surfacing online, shows Wood posing like Hitler with what appears to be a painted-on small moustache.
It appears to be a photo he sent to a friend – or group of friends – which appears to have been leaked.
Collins said today that Wood, National's candidate for the Palmerston North electorate, had faced severe bullying since the incident emerged.
"He's been targeted and bullied and I will not stand for that either," she told reporters today.
Collins described the fallout as a "shocking attack on a young man".
The fact he had promptly apologised yesterday was a sign of "immense maturity".
"And I would like to say to him don't worry, we've got your back," she said.
Wood invited to Holocaust education talk
Meanwhile Wood has been invited to a Holocaust education talk.
Holocaust Centre chief executive Chris Harris said he reached out to Wood after the news came to light yesterday.
"I sent him an email yesterday afternoon when it came to my attention about the article that was in the newspaper displaying acts of white supremacy and Nazi salutes.
"I thought it would be great for him to come and visit the Holocaust centre in Wellington just to learn more about the Holocaust and have the possibility to speak with one of our survivors."
Harris said Wood appreciated him about getting in touch, was very apologetic, and had agreed to travel to the Wellington centre.
He said it was important he takes up the opportunity and doesn't just dismiss this as being young and ignorant.
"I think it's important for anybody who comes out and shows any acts of white supremacy or imitation of the Nazis to come along and actually learn a little bit more.
"I'd say there's been some lacking in his education around the impact the Holocaust has had on world history."
Harris said Wood acknowledged that as a 14-year-old, he didn't have a deep enough understanding of the social implications of a photo like that.
"We're not there to ambush him in any way, more just to provide some valuable education about what he has done in the past and how that sticks with him right now."
The Holocaust Centre is also planning a series of school talks in Palmerston North next month, including at Wood's former high school.
Rival MPs excuse 'Hitler' case as young man's mistake
New Zealand First leader Winston Peters and Act leader David Seymour both expressed some sympathy for Wood.
"We all make mistakes when we were young – I would think it's part of the growing up process," Peters said.
But he did quip that "by the looks of it, he's still growing up".
Seymour said he wouldn't be punishing someone for something they did when they were 14 – "I would just tell them it was something that was very bad taste."
"I certainly hope that, if he is now mature enough to be a candidate he understands it's the wrong thing to do."
But he said that "going after someone for something they did when they were 14, no matter how stupid, I don't think helps New Zealand solve its problems".