New Zealand’s Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern says she was not rattled by an Australian interviewer who commented on her attractiveness and asked about the date of conception of her unborn child.
The interview by Charles Wooley for “60 Minutes” aired Sunday night on Australia’s Channel 9 and unleashed a storm of controversy on social media, with some users deeming it sexist.
Ardern, 37, announced in January that she was pregnant. She said she and her partner, Clarke Gayford, found out in October, during negotiations to form a minority New Zealand government.
“There is one really important political question I want to ask you, and that is, what exactly is the date the baby’s due? ” Wooley asked, during the “60 Minutes” interview. “It’s interesting how much people have been counting back to the conception, as it were,” he said.
Wooley later said: “I’ve met a lot of prime ministers in my time, but none so young, not too many so smart, and never one so attractive.”
State broadcaster Radio New Zealand reported that Ardern told media that she had not found the interview sexist or insulting.
“Maybe it’s just that I’m from Morrinsville. I don’t know. I just wasn’t particularly fazed by any of it,” it quoted her as saying. Morrinsville is a small town on New Zealand’s North Island where Ardern grew up.
Ardern said she didn’t regard the question about the baby’s conception date as offensive but said it might have been classed as “a little too much information.”
Wooley later told New Zealand talkback station Newstalk ZB that he was surprised at the “Orwellian” reaction to the interview, adding that it was “not a good time to be a journalist.”
“If you say someone is attractive … I think you should relist ‘attractive’ in the thesaurus, about 50 choices from good looking to gorgeous to likeable – there’s so many different meanings,” he said. “I’m going with winning. Winning is one of the alternatives in my directory.”
Woolley told NewstalkZB his wife had thought he had been a too “gushing” but that everyone was “smitten by a wonderful prime minister.”
“I know that some people in New Zealand might be annoyed that we didn’t talk about housing, or university fees but – this is an absolutely shocking thing to say – but Australian audiences aren’t very interested in the minutiae of New Zealand politics.”
He said that Ardern had not appeared to be uncomfortable during the interview and that he did not regret asking about the date of conception.
“Between you and me, I do get paid to do this and my executive producer would’ve sacked me if I hadn’t asked that,” he said. “I thought it was a funny point and obviously it wasn’t in New Zealand – we’re culturally different.”
Gayford – a fishing show host – appeared to post a cryptic reference to the interview on Twitter Monday, posting scenic coastal shots with the message: “A perfect place to escape for 60 Minutes or longer where required. Yesterday, Mokohinau Islands. Bloody magic bro.”
Some Australians reacted with embarrassment on social media.
“60 Minutes. Classy as ever. Trans Tasman relations at a new low…” posted one.