Verity Johnson: Gareth Morgan's 'lipstick on a pig' comment not sexist, just senseless

OPINION: Gareth Morgan's level of charisma makes Bill English look like the Genie in Aladdin. Morgan's got everything he needs to be an excellent civil servant...and nothing you need to be in the public eye. And it showed last night.

He was tweeting huffily: "All that matters is policy. Jacinda should be required to show she's more than lipstick on a pig. Will she be?"

The internet hit back at him for his supposed sexism in comparing Ardern to a pig.

Yes, it's a spectacularly poor choice of phrase - but it's not an example of sexism.

The phrase "lipstick on a pig" is commonly used to refer to something that's been given a superficial level of gloss but is still fundamentally crappy. It's normally something you associate with used car salesmen.

Morgan was not trying to make a comment about Ardern being a pig. He was trying to say he thinks Ardern is a superficial change that sugarcoats a fundamentally broken party.

He tried to clarify this later on Twitter by saying, "inequality & poverty in NZ caused by [establishment] parties. They have to earn their redemption."

But it was a stunningly stupid choice of phrase and reconfirmed he lacks any social IQ.

Firstly, why would you use a phrase that has been so historically misinterpreted?

Look at Obama. The silver-tongued, silver fox himself got backlash for supposed sexism against Sarah Palin when he called McCain and Palin's 2008 "change" campaign, "putting lipstick on a pig." Obama was actually just trying to say that the campaign was empty new rhetoric with the same bad policies.

Secondly, Morgan doesn't seem to get that Twitter is not a place for any concept more complicated than #blessed. If you're trying to communicate anything other than a meme, think long and hard before you try to say anything in under 140 characters.

Especially before you make a comment that could be misinterpreted to be about Ardern's appearance. Especially given that trolls have a long history of mocking her looks. And especially given the current climate of embarrassing, genuinely sexist commentary that has been floating around her and her uterus.

Again, Morgan cements his status as a huge disappointment. He's a smart guy with some genuinely good ideas. He just lacks the social intelligence necessary to make the leap from private genius to public figurehead.

And so he'll forever be known as that dude who hates cats.

Verity Johnson is a Newshub columnist and feature writer.