Opinion: Leave Paula Bennett alone!

OPINION: She cut a controversial figure as the former welfare recipient responsible for cutting, um, welfare. 

But she's also a human being with a heart and feelings and some of you have said some disgusting things about her in the past 24 hours - things that say more about you than they do about her.  

"Hopefully she dies soon," wished Damon Mason.

"Aww diddums people dies [sic] everyday…," added Peter Smith.

"Hu gives a shet biarch," was perhaps one of the more eloquent comments courtesy of Jimi Pouwhare.

Other comments left on the Newshub Facebook page instructed our Deputy Prime Minister , Paula Bennett, to "shut up bitch" and to "fark off…you fat gwarp". 

These comments come from fellow Kiwis; our neighbours, our kids' school teachers, beneficiaries and even parents.

What is disturbing about these comments is not that they were directed at Paula Bennett. 

It's not that they were left in the troll-filled, hate-packed online world of a news comment section.

It's that they were left in response to an article about the death of Paula's brother and best friend. 

They died in sudden accidents, within three months of each other, shortly after the birth of her first child at the age of 17. 

I know this because, with tears in her eyes, Paula told me so during a 20-minute interview on my RadioLIVE show. 

It formed the basis of the news story on Sunday that drew such a hateful response.

Some people seemed to think Paula had spoken about that heart-breaking time in her life for a sympathy vote, or to divert attention away from the Todd Barclay scandal.

I can confirm neither assumption is accurate.

The interview, while aired on Sunday, was pre-recorded prior to the Barclay debacle and was not formatted to include such personal questions.

Quite simply, I asked and she opened up. 

There was nothing planned about it.

Despite that, the fact fellow New Zealanders would react to a woman taking about the deaths of her child's godparents in such a hateful way is rather shocking.

I'm actually quite embarrassed for them. 

By no means do I expect everybody to love Paula Bennett; she is a flawed person. We are all flawed. 

She has instituted some policies which have caused hardship to some kiwi families. 

She has also instituted policies which have helped others.

But this was not an interview about politics or policy.

It was about a woman who lost two of the most important people in her life at a young age, and how this dual tragedy changed the course of her life.

It's a shame some of you are so caught up in your own hatred that you can't appreciate a human story when you see one.

I won't be voting tor Paula Bennett at the election, but I respect her as a person and I respect the journey she endured to become that person.

 The idea of the interview segment, named Tea for Two with Ryan Bridge, is to get to get to know the person behind the sound-bite, to understand what motivates them and to find out what emotional experiences have defined their lives.

For pop-star, Lorde, it was a break-up from her ex-boyfriend.

For celebrity chef, Al Brown, it was growing up in rural Wairarapa that inspired his culinary career. For millionaire businesswoman Dame Wendy Pye, it was being fired from her job that led her on a path to growing one of the country's most successful educational exports.

Getting to know the people and stories behind well-known kiwis is an important and useful service to RadioLIVE's audience.

How else will you know why somebody does something, how they'll react to certain situations and how they got ahead?

Ryan Bridge is the host of Your Sunday on RadioLIVE.

 

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