A former Australian football league star and TV presenter faced a stinging backlash online after he derided New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern’s accent in her speech to parliament following the Christchurch attacks.
Ardern has been widely praised at home and abroad for her handling of the tragedy, including her quickly-enacted gun control measures. She was also praised for a rousing speech in parliament in which she urged her fellow citizens not to mention the name of the perpetrator of the attack.
But former Aussie rules star turned media personality Sam Newman, 73, decided that Ardern’s accent, and not the content of her speech, was the most striking aspect of the moment.
“How grating is her accent?” Newman asked his Twitter followers.
Thank heavens NZ prime minister said she will never mention the name of the terrorist. How grating is her accent?
— Sam Newman (@Origsmartassam) March 19, 2019
The backlash to his unsolicited hot take was swift and vitriolic, given the insensitive timing following the massacres in which 50 people were killed and a further 50 injured.
If circumstances weren’t so sad it would be ripe for send up. But Sam she’s been so impressive, so eloquent and compassionate in recent days. Her political leanings may not be yours but she’s conducted herself as a remarkable leader in a time of her nation’s grief.
— Peter Ford (@mrpford) March 19, 2019
not as grating as your entire public persona
— The Jupiter Girl (@upulie) March 20, 2019
you know Sam, you were an idiot when I knew you back in the 80s – instructive to know you haven't changed one bit
— Alison Mau (@Alisonmau) March 20, 2019
Significantly better than any of the wind that comes out of your regressive racist sexist neck, Sam.
— Celeste Liddle (@Utopiana) March 20, 2019
However, the former sports star and provocateur did not back down, describing Ardern’s accent as “ghastly” and adding that he had no issue with what she said.
Thank you so much for comments re NZ prime minister – and her accent. To be clear, this had nothing to do with her sentiments. It DID have to do with the ghastly accent NZ’s have cultivated. Now, bang on about that being racist. That should occupy your tiny brains.
— Sam Newman (@Origsmartassam) March 20, 2019
Mate, 50 Kiwis have been killed by one of your countrymen and the only words you can muster is to insult our Prime Minister’s accent. Anything else you would like to critique?
— Andy Burt (@AndyBurt2012) March 20, 2019
Newman has courted controversy before, claiming in 2018 that Australia’s Muslim community “share no common interest” with their fellow citizens.
“There are 600,000 Muslims in Australia, they share no common interest with what we’re on about,” he said, reacting to two Muslim Aussie rules players embracing, following inflammatory comments by a senator who called for a “final solution” to immigration.
Newman has previously given hot takes on controversial topics ranging from homophobia, black face and sexism, to indecent exposure.
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