Patrick Gower apologises for claiming poll result drove Metiria Turei to quit
Newshub political editor Patrick Gower has apologised to Green Party leader James Shaw for suggesting a bad poll result drove his co-leader to quit.
Metiria Turei resigned as Green Party co-leader on Wednesday afternoon following weeks of pressure over her admitted benefit and electoral fraud.
Her resignation came just hours after she was informed of the latest Newshub-Reid Research poll results, which saw the party's support crumble by a third, down 4.7 points to 8.3 percent.
"The truth is you had a terrible result in the Newshub-Reid Research poll today one of the worst results ever for the Green Party - and for the first time slipped behind Winston Peters," Gower told Mr Shaw on Wednesday night's episode of The Project.
"Just hours after you were told of that, Metiria Turei stepped down. That's the real reason, isn't it? That she was hurting you at the polls."
Mr Shaw denied it, saying it was the scrutiny of Ms Turei's family which led to her resignation. A sceptical Gower repeatedly told Mr Shaw he "just wanted to check", leading to a tense silence between the pair - eventually broken by comedian and regular host of The Project, Josh Thomson.
Appearing on The AM Show on Thursday morning, Gower was contrite.
"I actually got my tone wrong on this, and I apologise to James Shaw," he told host Duncan Garner.
"I think things have moved on - Metiria Turei is gone. It doesn't matter if she went because of this poll result, or more things were going to be revealed or not. New Zealand needs to get on with this election and stop talking about Metiria Turei. "I think she'd believe that herself. She has been a warrior."
The "more things" Gower referred to are allegations Ms Turei wasn't struggling to feed her daughter when she lied to Work and Income (WINZ) to get extra money, reported by RNZ last night. It's been claimed her family was supporting her financially - which Ms Turei has strongly denied.
James Shaw admits 'naivety' around vitriol
Mr Shaw, also appearing on The AM Show on Thursday, said it was "rancid" to speculate on whether Ms Turei was "poor enough" that lying to WINZ could be justified.
"I find it very hard to condemn a young solo mother who is living below the breadline having to make some very, very bad choices. This is the problem Metiria is trying to highlight - the system that we've got puts tens of thousands of people into that position every single day."
He says the party knew it was a risky strategy for Ms Turei to reveal her past offending, but that it was "worth taking".
"If we had just gone with launching the policy package... I have to say that would have had about 48 hours of media coverage, and that would have been that."
But Mr Shaw says never having been on a benefit himself, he was unprepared for the "level of vilification" Ms Turei has been subjected to.