Fox News host Tucker Carlson called New Zealand prime minister Jacinda Ardern “the lady with the big teeth” and a “Chinese puppet” just moments after she announced her resignation, prompting backlash from her supporters on Twitter.
On Wednesday, Ms Ardern said at a press conference that she would be standing down next month.
“I am not leaving because it was hard. Had that been the case I probably would have departed two months into the job. I am leaving because with such a privileged role, comes responsibility, the responsibility to know when you are the right person to lead, and also, when you are not. I know what this job takes, and I know that I no longer have enough in the tank to do it justice. It is that simple,” she said.
She added that 7 February will be her last day as the country’s leader.
Shortly after her announcement, Mr Carlson on his show on Fox News struggled to pronounce Ms Ardern’s name and then proceeded to say that “the lady with the big teeth who tormented her citizens” will be stepping down.
He also lashed out at her for enforcing Covid lockdowns in New Zealand.
“Most authoritarian leader that country has ever had and no one else comes close,” he was quoted as saying by Mediamatters.
“An appalling abuser of human rights of her own people. She, of course, earned the admiration of Western leaders including former CIA director Michael Hayden by ushering in an era of near totalitarianism in New Zealand. She shut down the entire country over a single Covid case. She told everyone to stay in their bubbles, she told citizens to inform on their neighbours by calling the police if they saw them outside.”
Carlson also proceeded to call her a puppet of the Chinese government.
“What are the chances she was a puppet of the Chinese government? We don’t have enough evidence to prove that, but we would rate that as about 100 percent likely,” he said.
The country of 5 million people has successfully kept Covid deaths to a minimum throughout the pandemic, though cases rose sharply last year with the more transmissible Omicron variant.
In response to the commentary from Mr Carlson, many people on Twitter who supported Ms Ardern’s leadership spoke out in her defense.
“Unlike Tucker Carlson, Jacinda Ardern was a true leader. When crises hit, she was there to put her arms around those who were hurting. Her behaviour after the Christchurch massacre and during the pandemic were examples to all leaders around the world,” one person wrote.
Another person lambasted him as someone who “knows nothing of insight of the outside world & stirs up bias and division. You truly are a disappointment to Harvard & Yale, and should be embarrassed of the legacy you’re creating.”
“Jacinda is intelligent, honest, hard working, and will be missed by my family in NZ. Your grade school insults are the best you have. Pathetic. Sad,” a third person said.