Veteran 60 Minutes journalist, Charles Wooley, has defended his Sunday evening interview with New Zealand prime minister, Jacinda Arden, that has since been labelled “creepy” and “sexist”.
Wooley has described the backlash to his story as “Orwellian” and “it’s not a good time to be a journalist”, adding that his attempt at humour had been lost due to “cultural differences”. And that’s despite much of the backlash coming from Australia.
As reported on B&T yesterday, Wooley found himself in the middle of an international incident after he labelled Arden attractive and then went on to speculate she’d fallen pregnant the night of her election win.
The recriminations were swift on both sides of the Tasman, with New Zealand commentators saying the interview should have come with both an R-rating and a vomit bag.
However, Wooley has defended the interview, telling New Zealand radio station Newstalk ZB that he’s a victim of political correctness.
“It’s a bit Orwellian, you know I think. You’ve got to be so careful now with newsspeak and thought crime and everything else. We suffer the same thing in Australia. It’s not a good time to be a journalist,” Wooley told the radio station.
“If you say somebody is attractive, my thesaurus defines it as 50 choices from good looking to gorgeous to likeable, there is so many different meanings.”
Wooley then admitted that his own wife had said she thought the interview was “too gushing” before defending the decision to ask about when Arden’s baby was conceived, saying, “My executive producer would have sacked me if I hadn’t asked that.”
Wooley then added: “This is a clearly shocking thing to say but Australian audiences aren’t very interested in minutae of New Zealand politics…..they want to see this wonderful couple. I thought it was a funny point, obviously it wasn’t. We’re culturally different.
“I’m not sexist. I’ve got lots of daughters who won’t let me be,” he said. “If you don’t have a thick skin you might as well go into some other business entirely.”
For its part, Nine has largely distanced itself from the fallout, yesterday issuing B&T a statement that barely mentioned Wooley, preferring to espouse 60 Minutes’ 40 year history of conducting interviews “without fear or favour”.
Not so 60 Minutes viewers who took to social media to register their disgust at the interview’s sexism and flippancy.
“I assumed 60 Minutes would have a second half of the Jacinda interview after the break that talked about her policies and political achievements,” one disgruntled viewer wrote on Twitter. “But … nothing. All we got was sexist comments about her looks and baby talk. Ugh. Absolutely shitful journalism.”
Another adding: “Commenting on @jacindaardern’s level of attractiveness, doesn’t seem to be at all relevant to her ability as a nation’s leader.”