Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern 'misled' over new biography Leading with Empathy

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern says she felt misled by authors of a new biography about her, because they pitched the book as a wider look at female political leaders. 

The book, Jacinda Ardern: Leading with Empathy by Supriya Vani and Carl A Harte, is described by publisher Hardie Grant Books as a "major biography of one of the most important and inspirational leaders of the twenty-first century". 

Ardern told reporters on Monday that when she sat down for an interview with the authors, she was not aware they were writing a biography about her. 

"No, no I was not, and I generally have a bit of a policy of not really engaging in any efforts to write anything specifically of that nature - about me," she said. 

"But I have from time to time, when someone's made an approach and said they're writing a book on women in leadership in particular, on the odd occasion I have contributed to those. That was the nature of the request I received in this example."

Ardern said she was approached about it in 2019. 

"I was told the author was writing a book on women in political leadership and I was told there were roughly 10 other female political leaders involved, and asked whether or not I would participate. And on that basis, given it wasn't specific to me, I was happy to contribute," she said. 

"So no, it's not accurate to say it was an exclusive interview specifically for that purpose, no."

Ardern said she felt misled. 

"Well clearly I was," she said. "I would seek that any statements are not misleading and certainly the claim that it was an exclusive interview for the purpose of writing a book of that nature is not true, so I think we'll certainly ask that that be clarified."

The publisher, Hardie Grant Books, has been approached by Newshub for a response. 

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern says she felt misled by authors of a new biography about her.
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern says she felt misled by authors of a new biography about her. Photo credit: Newshub / Zane Small

Biographies have already been written about Ardern, including Michelle Duff's Jacinda Ardern: The Story Behind an Extraordinary Leader and Madeleine Chapman's Jacinda Ardern: A New Kind of Leader.

The new book comes amid intense criticism of Hollywood plans to create a film titled They Are Us about Ardern's leadership in the wake of the 2019 Christchurch terror attack. 

Ardern told The AM Show on Monday she felt "deeply uncomfortable" with the films' focus on her, rather than the victims of the mosque shootings. 

The Muslim community has lashed out at the filmmakers for not consulting them and for focusing it on a white woman. A petition launched on Friday seeking to have the project cancelled has gathered more than 58,000 signatures. 

The film, directed by Kiwi Andrew Niccol and starring Australian actress Rose Byrne as Ardern, has already suffered the loss of one of its producers, Philippa Campbell, who has announced she no longer wants to be involved. 

Speaking to reporters, Ardern said it wouldn't be appropriate for her to intervene in the project and have it cancelled. But she did not hold back her view that the timing was off and that it should have a different focus. 

"I've shared a view that this is a very raw event for New Zealand, even more so, of course, for the community that experienced it," she said. 

"I agree that there are stories that at some point should be told from March 15, but they're the stories of our Muslim community so they need to be at the centre of that. I don't consider mine one of the stories that need to be told."

Ardern's media spotlight has often come under scrutiny. In 2019 the hashtag #TurnArdern trended on Twitter, which encouraged critics to hide copies of books and magazines featuring her on the cover.