Alan Jones praises Jacinda Ardern's handling of controversial remarks, says he doesn't 'hate'

Outgoing Australian radio broadcaster Alan Jones has pushed back on claims he's known for his "hatreds" while also praising New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern for how she handled his controversial remarks about her last year.

Jones, 79, announced on Tuesday that he was giving up his famous breakfast slot on Sydney's 2GB network at the end of May, citing health issues. The former Wallabies coach is frequently touted as Australia's most influential broadcaster, with well-known conservative views.

Speaking to The AM Show on Wednesday morning, Jones said there had to be a point where he ended his run on the radio. However, he does intend to continue appearing on television, where he has also forged a career, particularly on SkyNews.

"I have had cancers, I have had everything imaginable, and I have these regular doctor's checkups and they have been saying to me for some time that the workload is ridiculous and at the moment, that is the case," he said.

"You have got to put the full stop somewhere. Even if it was 12 months down the track, we would still be having the same conversation. They'd be saying 'why have you done it now'."

"You have never had enough. That's not the point. I don't think it is particularly healthy. As the doctors said you either stop or you drop. So I thought I would choose to stop. I am quite healthy, but at the same time, I have, what do they say in the coronavirus era, I have got all these pre-conditions."

He said despite living a "silly" lifestyle with a massive workload, he had survived numerous cancers and operations on his back. 

While Jones is a formidable presence in Australia media, many Kiwis may best know him for his controversial remarks last year about Prime Minister Ardern. He caused a stir in August when he suggested Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison should "shove a sock down [Ardern's] throat" in response to her criticising Australia on climate change. 

"She is just a joke this woman, an absolute and utter light-weight... These people are an absolute joke and Jacinda Ardern is the biggest joke."

Many advertisers ditched 2GB's show over the remarks, his ratings dropped and the broadcaster was told by the station's management that if he made similar commentary again, his contract would be terminated.

Ardern wouldn't directly respond to the comments at the time, but did reference Jones' stint as Wallabies coach

"I understand he used to be closely linked to the Wallabies, so let's just say that revenge is best served through a Bledisloe Cup," she said in August.

Jones later sent her a letter apologising for the comments, noting that while he disagreed with her stance on climate change, he didn't wish her any harm. 

He told The AM Show on Wednesday that he was impressed with Ardern's reaction to his comments. 

"I was really, really pleased with the way Jacinda Ardern accepted it. She had a very nice joke about the fact that [Jones] was most probably upset about losing the Bledisloe Cup or something," he said.

"It surprised me that she actually knew all this business about rugby. I thought she handled it in good style and good spirit and I never, ever meant any harm. Those are metaphorical things that you say. They are figures of speech… she understood that."

"When you are in the position that I am, there are people who jump on anything, and they did then. But that is irrelevant. What is relevant is what my intentions were. I immediately wrote to the Prime Minister, I apologised to her, and I got a very, very nice acknowledgement from her office… She accepted that in good spirit".

Asked for her reaction to Jones' departure from radio, Ardern said on Tuesday: "When anyone has ill health, I wish them the very best".

The broadcaster was also asked by The AM Show newsreader Amanda Gillies about a Sydney Morning Herald column published on Tuesday which began with the line "He is a man best known for his hatreds". The piece went on to list policies, people and ideas that Jones had harshly opposed and explained what the author called his "dalliance with bigotry".

It referenced a ruling by the New South Wales Administrative Appeals Tribunal that found the broadcaster "incited hatred, serious contempt and severe ridicule of Lebanese Muslims" with comments in 2005 as well as his Ardern remarks. 

Jones said he hadn't read any articles about him recently, but that he wasn't a man full of hatred.

"I just find that comment absolutely unbelievable. People who know me know that I don't even hate. I have no idea how people come to those conclusions. I hope my record speaks for itself," he said.

"I would completely argue it is the most negative sentiment that can ever be expressed. I have no idea where those conclusions come from. Presumably, only from people who have never met me and don't know me."

He said he had received hundreds of positive emails and texts.