Rotary Club apologies after backlash over 'disgusting' images of former PM Jacinda Ardern's face on toilet seat

  • 06/05/2023
Rotary members holding a toilet seat trophy with Jacinda Ardern's face on it.
Rotary members holding a toilet seat trophy with Jacinda Ardern's face on it. Photo credit: Facebook/Kay Jones

A Rotary Club has apologised after coming under fire for posing with an image of Jacinda Ardern attached to a toilet seat.

Images posted to the Rotary Club of St Johns' social media on Friday showed a group of men, some wearing wigs, surrounding the toilet seat which donned a mask of former prime minister Jacinda Ardern to the lid. The post has since been removed.

The toilet seat is reportedly the club's trophy, which has been used for decades.

The photo was quickly labelled as "disgusting" and "disrespectful" by people online.

"Disgusted by [the] disrespect shown by two club teams including Rotary Club of St Johns Inc towards NZ's former PM," one person wrote.

"How sad that you work hard to support such worthy initiatives but your local chapter St Johns is promoting disgusting gutter politics against a woman prime minister. I thought Rotary was a non-partisan operation?" another said.

The St John and Auckland East club teams had gathered for an annual debate event on Thursday night. The subject was to debate which former Prime Minister was better Jacinda Ardern or Robert Muldoon.

The Auckland East club, who were debating for Ardern, wore long wigs and printed cartoon masks of Ardern. They were announced the winners.

Rotary St Johns co-president Gary Key told the NZ Herald when the photos were taken someone in the winning team placed their mask atop the toilet trophy.

"Rotary in New Zealand is aware of the offensive portrayal of the former prime minister of New Zealand by one of our clubs," a spokesperson told Newshub.

"While club representatives have already issued a public apology, we reiterate that the behaviours exhibited at the event were unacceptable and do not align with Rotary’s commitment to being a welcoming place where every person who engages with us is valued and shown respect. Rotary’s code of conduct clearly states that members and Rotary participants shall maintain an environment that promotes safety, courtesy, dignity, and respect to all.

"As a global membership service organization committed to creating positive change, we must acknowledge and hold ourselves accountable when our actions are wrong and be fully open to learning from such mistakes."