Damian Green's allies have been accused of "dirty tricks", reigniting the row around an inquiry that led to former Cabinet minister's sacking.
A report in the Mail on Sunday, based on leaked text messages, said that Kate Maltby, the journalist who alleged inappropriate behaviour on the part of Mr Green, continued to warmly message the former minister after she had reported him.
But Tory former minister Anna Soubry accused Mr Green and his supporters of "launching an attack" on the journalist, while Ms Maltby told the Sunday Times that "only Damian Green or his allies" could have leaked the texts.
The original allegations, which Mr Green says he does not recognise, triggered a Cabinet Office probe into his conduct.
That investigation widened to include allegations that police found pornography on computers in his parliamentary office in 2008 and eventually led to his sacking by the prime minister over "misleading" statements he made about the issue.
The text messages seen by the Mail on Sunday suggest Ms Maltby sent texts to Mr Green this year, which appeared friendly in tone and included one in February which said "hope to catch up when things calm down".
Mr Green reportedly replied: "they never do so let's fix a date soon", to which Ms Maltby is said to have replied: "Great. Night night."
But Ms Soubry accused Mr Green's allies of attacking Ms Maltby, telling the Sunday Times it "smacks of a dirty ticks campaign".
"It appears that Green's allies barely paused for breath after he apologised for the distress caused to Kate Maltby before launching an attack," she was reported as saying.
Mr Green reportedly denies any involvement with the leaked texts, while Prime Minister Theresa May said on Friday that the first she knew about allegations of inappropriate conduct by her close ally was when she read about them in the press.
Ms Maltby told the Mail on Sunday: "It has never been a secret that I had a friendly relationship with Damian Green for some time before I cut off contact, and that I resumed contact with him by text after he joined the Cabinet.
"I felt it was professionally necessary - and I gave the Cabinet inquiry multiple saved communications proving that I had asked the advice of several more experienced female journalists before doing so.
"It is my clear understanding from the Cabinet Office that direct evidence as to his behaviour in this regard has already formed the background to the Prime Minister's decision to sack him. Your story reflects much more on him than it does on me."