New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern made a rare public misstep when she was caught cursing about a rival lawmaker during a session of Parliament on Tuesday. Ardern, 42, has become known around the world for her calm leadership of the country during several recent crises, including the COVID-19 pandemic and the 2019 Christchurch mosque shootings. However, Ardern and the Labour Party have been slipping in the polls recently.
During a barrage of questions from David Seymour, who leads the libertarian ACT party, Ardern was heard whispering to her deputy, Gaunt Robertson. "He's such an arrogant p—," she was heard saying of Seymour. The comment was not loud enough to be picked up by the in-house microphones and was not entered into official parliamentary records, reports the Washington Post.
Even Seymour was surprised by the comment. "The government's under a lot of pressure," he said. "I was pretty astonished because I've known Jacinda for 11 years." Seymour noted that it was "out of character" for Ardern.
The prime minister later texted an apology, Seymour said. She referred to her mother's advice, "If you don't have anything nice to say, you shouldn't say it." Seymour then wished Ardern a merry Christmas and said there were no hard feelings. "That's the Kiwi way," he said. Ardern's office confirmed she apologized to Seymour but offered no other comment.
Ardern has been the leader of New Zealand's Labour Party since 2017 and became Prime Minster later that year. Her policies on containing the COVID-19 pandemic made her popular at home and abroad, helping her party cruise to victory in the 2020 general election. Recent economic issues and concerns about crime have seen Ardern's party take a hit in the polls.
When Ardern became Prime Minister at 37, she was the world's youngest female head of government. That title is now held by Finland Prime Minister Sanna Marin, 37. Last month, Ardern made headlines when a reporter asked her and Marin if they were only meeting because they are similar in age.
"My first question is, I wonder whether or not anyone ever asked Barack Obama and John Key if they met because they were of similar age?" Ardern replied. "We, of course, have a higher proportion of men in politics. It's reality. Because two women meet, it's not simply because of their gender." Ardern said the meeting focused on "the economic opportunities between our two countries... Little would be known about the depth of that relationship or the potential of it. But it's our job to further it, regardless of our gender."