Originally, Hanson was a Liberal candidate for the Queensland seat of Oxley, but when her views became known, the party let her go. She went on to win the seat as an independent.
But after her election, the new prime minister declined several opportunities to condemn her.
"I welcome the fact that people can talk about certain things without being branded as a bigot," Howard said in 1996.
In a speech to parliament, Howard said people have a right to attack immigration levels without being branded bigots or racists.
In 2016, he justified his words by saying that he couldn't recall seeing any "hard evidence" of violence or abuse against Asian people in Australia at the time.
"Certainly, [Hanson] spoke to some of the people who I regarded as 'Howard Battlers', yes. She was, however inadequately, articulating a sense of feeling left out on behalf of a lot of Australians," Howard told the documentary makers.
"I thought the wrong thing to do was to launch an all out attack labelling all of the people who support her as racists," he said.