February 5, 2023

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New Zealand Prime Minister Ardern busted her rival on the hot mic

New Zealand Prime Minister Ardern busted her rival on the hot mic

WELLINGTON, New Zealand (AP) — New Zealand’s Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern was caught on a heated microphone Tuesday using a cliche against a rival politician in a rare misstep for a leader known for her debate skills and calm, measured responses.

After five years as prime minister, Ardern faces a tough election campaign in 2023. Her liberal Labor party was re-elected two years ago in a landslide of historic proportions, but recent polls have put her party behind its conservative rivals.

The comment came after lawmaker David Seymour, who leads the ACT liberal party, fed Ardern questions about her government’s record for about seven minutes during Parliament’s grilling time, allowing for a spirited debate between the rival parties.

Sitting next to her deputy Grant Robertson, Ardern said what sounded like, “He’s an arrogant actor ———” after being seated. Her words can barely be heard on Parliament TV, but they are picked up in the background by her desk microphone as House Speaker Adrien Rorawi speaks.

Ardern’s office said she has apologized to Seymour for the comment. When the Associated Press asked for clarification, Ardern’s office did not object to comment. In an interview with the Associated Press, Seymour said she used those words.

“I was completely shocked and dumbfounded by her use of language,” said Seymour. “She’s so out of character with Jacinda, I’ve known her personally for 11 years.”

It was ironic, he said, because his question to the prime minister was whether she had admitted a mistake as leader and then made amends. “And she couldn’t give a single example when she admitted she was wrong and apologized,” Seymour said.

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Seymour said that Ardern wrote in her letter that she “apologies, she should not have made the comments, and as her mother said, if you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say it.”

Seymour, who said he greatly admired some of Ardern’s political skills, said he wrote back to Ardern thanking her for her apology and wishing her a very happy birthday.