National's Gerry Brownlee apologises for conspiratorial tone - but then doubles down

National Party deputy leader Gerry Brownlee has apologised for his conspiratorial tone - but then doubled down by musing on the timing of Dr Ashley Bloomfield's COVID-19 test. 

Brownlee stirred up conspiracy theorists last week by questioning why Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern visited a mask factory days before the latest COVID-19 outbreak in Auckland.

"I'm sorry that people have taken it as being some kind of conspiracy accusation. It was never meant to be like that," Brownlee said on Tuesday.

It was an apology of sorts - but then Brownlee doubled down, musing over the timing of the Director-General of Health's COVID-19 test last Monday.

"I just think it was interesting that the man at the top of the tree was 102 days clear suddenly wanting to get tested," Brownlee said.

Last week Brownlee described the Prime Minister's visit to the mask factory and Dr Bloomfield's COVID-19 test as an "interesting series of facts", and Newshub asked him if he still thinks that.

"No. Look, I don't," Brownlee said. "It is a fact. It happened, that's all."

Brownlee also had a crack at the media in an email to supporters asking for donations.

In the email he says with "endless wall-to-wall coverage" and "a favourable media... Labour have the cards stacked in their favour".

When asked about the email on Tuesday, Brownlee said, "You're being very precious. I think it's the context of there being a lot of coverage of what the Government is doing at the moment." 

National didn't have a lot to say on Tuesday about US President Donald Trump singling out New Zealand for a "big surge" in COVID-19 cases.

Trump's comments were made in the throes of lashing out at what he calls the fake news media.

"They were holding up names of countries and now they're saying 'whoops'," Trump said. "In fact, even New Zealand - you see what's going on in New Zealand. They beat it, they beat it, it was, like, front page - they beat it."

That was until we didn't.

"The problem is - big surge in New Zealand, so, you know, it's terrible. We don't want that."

The day he made the comment, our "big surge" was nine new COVID-19 cases while the US topped more than 50,000 the same day.

The Prime Minister responded on Tuesday, "It's a tricky virus but not one where I would compare New Zealand's current status to the United States."

National leader Judith Collins was less inclined to call out Trump.

"I haven't seen those comments. I'm not the expert on Mr Trump, but I'm sure James Shaw will tell you what he thinks," she said.

And indeed the Green Party co-leader did.

"Donald Trump says rubbish every single day, and I think most of us are looking forward to seeing the back of him," Shaw said.

He said Trump made an "absurd" comparison between the US and New Zealand.

Newshub asked the Prime Minister if she agreed with Shaw. 

"Well, obviously, it's patently wrong," she said of Trump's comments.