Newshub's political editor Tova O'Brien has lambasted National MP Judith Collins for her "appalling" cyberbullying of new KiwiBuild buyers.
O'Brien's comments came after Ms Collins trolled Kiwi couple Fletcher Ross and Derryn Jayne over their eligibility for the KiwiBuild programme. She insinuated the marketing manager and newly graduating doctor shouldn't be eligible because they are well-off.
"Who would have thought that the first KiwiBuild families going into their first KiwiBuild homes would have stirred up this really ugly, ugly side of New Zealand?" O'Brien told The AM Show on Wednesday.
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The couple's eligibility angered those who believe KiwiBuild should be targeted towards low-income and homeless families. They came under fire on social media for images appearing to show they could afford international travel.
Ms Collins weighed in, commenting on a screenshot of an Instagram post of the pair, posted to Twitter, captioned, "204 countries + 7 seas and I had the privilege of meeting you". Ms Collins said: "204 countries - maybe doesn't need taxpayer support".
There are only 195 countries in the world, and the couple's "204 countries" nod was a reference to a popular meme about the chances of meeting your soul mate.
Ms Collins' followers were quick to get on board, however, going as far as to scour the young couples' Facebook accounts to create a full itinerary of their past travels. The couple's accounts are now both private.
Housing Minister Phil Twyford accused Ms Collins of "essentially inciting victimisation of a young couple who have just bought their first home". He said the couple "didn't sign up for that" and that they now feel "abused because of Judith Collins' actions".
O'Brien said it was unfair of Ms Collins to target the couple as they were "eligible, they fit the criteria, they followed all the rules, and they got into one of these KiwiBuild homes".
"We knew that there were fishhooks with the eligibility criteria," she added, pointing to the high $180,000 income cap for a couple under the KiwiBuild scheme. "This couple ended up being the first manifestation of those fishhooks."
"But the fact that we had MPs weighing into this, trolling them on social media, is appalling," said O'Brien. "We're trying to kybosh that kind of thing. There are a lot of rotten people on social media, and if our leaders in Parliament are perpetuating that, it doesn't help things at all."
Ms Collins hit back at accusations she was a cyberbullying, calling Mr Twyford's "cyberbullying" comments "defamatory". She said it was "just the sort of lie I'd expect from Phil Twyford".
"It was a phenomenal episode of the Phil and Judi saga - an ongoing love/hate parliamentary feud," O'Brien told The AM Show. She said Ms Collins should have targeted Mr Twyford in the first place as the income cap was a Government decision.
"I think Phil Twyford won this one because Judith Collins was out of line by targeting this couple," she said.