Jacinda Ardern took 'lipstick on pig' comment out of context - Gareth Morgan

News 25/01/2019

Gareth Morgan has clapped back at Jacinda Ardern after his infamous "lipstick on a pig" comment was referenced in a BBC interview.

The former leader of The Opportunities Party claimed the Prime Minister has taken the comment out of context, telling Magic Talk the remark was about Labour's policy, not her.

"I meant that the change that Labour had made was superficial or cosmetic," he told Sean Plunket, referring to the rise in Labour's popularity when Ms Ardern became leader in 2017.

"My point was, and it was basically a point about policy: you can clean up a pig, put a ribbon on its tail, and spray it with perfume, but it's still a pig."

Ms Ardern resurfaced the issue earlier this week while in London. Speaking to the BBC, she discussed the verbal abuse she had experienced as a politician, such as being called "lipstick on a pig" by Mr Morgan.

While Ms Ardern said those kinds of insults reflect "old politics as usual", "in terms of the gendered nature, New Zealand relative to others, we do fairly well".

Mr Morgan has accused the Prime Minister of stirring up "identity politics". He said he's "anti-discrimination of any kind", but said he doesn't have "any empathy for femo-fascists who are proponents of identity politics of gender".

"That's the problem in this era of society, the incapability of the identity politics to think and analyse beyond identity, whether that identity's gender, ethnicity, religion, age," he said.

"They reduce the scope of their critical thought to a simplistic 'yes' or 'no' on identity. It seems to me that Jacinda is a sucker for this dumbed-down thinking."

The Prime Minister's office has been contacted for comment.

The term "lipstick on a pig" has been used by other politicians in the past and similarly stirred up controversy.

Former US president Barack Obama used it while campaigning against the late senator John McCain in 2008, after the Republican Party unveiled its new mantra for "change" during the presidential campaign.

"You know, you can put lipstick on a pig," Mr Obama said, "but it's still a pig."

Republicans took the line as a reference to Mr McCain's running mare Sarah Palin, who had just a week earlier described the difference between a hockey mum and a pit bull as "lipstick".

Mr McCain said at the time it was a "pathetic attempt" to play the gender card. 

Listen to the full interview with Gareth Morgan above.