An Australian television interview with the prime minister of New Zealand, Jacinda Ardern, has drawn criticism for being “creepy” and “sexist.”
In the opening segment, reporter Charles Wooley described the 37-year-old PM as “attractive.”
“I’ve met a lot of prime ministers in my time,” he said. “But none so young, not too many so smart, and never one so attractive.”
Later on in the interview, as Ardern was joined by her partner Clarke Gayford, the reporter focused in on the PM’s recently announced pregnancy, specifically the exact timing of conception, a line of questioning which unsurprisingly seemed to make the couple uncomfortable.
“One really important political question that I want to ask you,” Wooley said. “And that is, what exactly is the date that the baby’s due?”
Ardern replied that her baby was due on 17 June, to which Wooley replied: “It’s interesting how many people have been counting back to the conception … as it were,” which made Gayford blush giggle uneasily, responding: “Really?”
Wooley continued: “Having produced six children it doesn’t amaze me that people can have children; why shouldn’t a child be conceived during an election campaign?”
At this, Ardern responded awkwardly: “The election was done. Not that we need to get into those details.”
Straight after airing, New Zealanders were quick to criticise the questioning as being overly personal.
“I assumed #60mins would have a second half of the Jacinda interview after the break that talked about her policies and political achievements. But… nothing. All we got was sexist comments about her looks and baby talk. Ugh. Absolutely sh*tful journalism… *changes channel*” one woman commented.
I assumed #60mins would have a second half of the Jacinda interview after the break that talked about her policies and political achievements. But… nothing. All we got was sexist comments about her looks and baby talk. Ugh. Absolutely shitful journalism… *changes channel*
— Priscilla Sutton (@trisgilla) February 25, 2018
Others accused the reporter of being misogynistic and inappropriate.
“Commenting on @jacindaardern’s level of attractiveness, doesn’t seem to be at all relevant to her ability as a nation’s leader #60Mins,” one woman wrote on Twitter.
— Emily G (@emily_a_george) February 25, 2018
Meh some of these questions on #60mins to the NZ Prime Minister are so repugnant…then he makes a comment about how attractive she is…blurk x a million…I’m embarrassed that @jacindaardern & her husband had to endure them pic.twitter.com/xKKKdod8zl
— benjamin (giggling) (@gigglingben) February 25, 2018
While most were critical of the interview style, some people didn’t see a problem with it.
“ffs, have we come to a stage when no one can call no one attractive, without being questioned, wake up, this is so pathetic,” one user wrote.
ffs, have we come to a stage when no one can call no one attractive, without being questioned, wake up, this is so pathetic
— mikeybee (@top40_charts) February 26, 2018
Following the backlash, Wooley defended his style of questioning explaining to Newstalk ZB that he went down a more personal root because Australian viewers wouldn’t be as interested in New Zealand issues.
He also dismissed claims the PM was uncomfortable during the interview, pointing out that Ardern’s press secretary said the Prime Minister “enjoyed” the chat.
“On 60 Minutes they want to see this wonderful couple,” he said. “I just loved being with them, I thought they were so much fun, such a breath of fresh air … it was just terrific to be with them.”
Meanwhile Ardern told reporters on Monday she “wasn’t fazed” by the interview, even if the question about her conception date was a bit of a surprise.
According to Fairfax Media the PM explained it was a line of questioning she’d faced before.
“You’re assuming that I haven’t been asked that question before by New Zealand media as well… At the time certainly, I think that question threw me a little bit, but it would be going a bit far to say I was somehow offended by it. I wasn’t. It’s one I think put under the heading of too much information,” she said.
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