Christopher Luxon initially 'not sure' if women face more abuse in politics, later admits they do

It's no secret the Prime Minister faced vitriolic, often sexist, comments, but Jacinda Ardern denies misogynism fed into her decision to quit.

When he was asked about it Christopher Luxon said he didn't believe women in politics face more abuse than men, but then quickly conceded that wasn't true.

National was revving up for the election on Friday.

Luxon spent some of the day hitting the scorching streets of Napier, bumping into long-lost friends, and campaigning hard to capture an attentive public.

But there's only one story in politics right now - Ardern's resignation. 

Not everyone is gassed for the Nats. One woman pulled the fingers, yelling National sucks.

But a middle finger's much less threatening than the misogynistic abuse Jacinda Ardern has received.

She denies it played a role in her decision to step down. 

"It did not, and my strong message to women in leadership and girls who may be considering leadership in future, this is a place where the foundation was laid long before me to make it possible for us to be in these roles."

While Ardern denies the mass of misogynistic vitriol levelled at her weighed into her decision, it was prolific - not that the National leader would acknowledge that on Friday morning.

He told RNZ it was about politics, not personality.

Asked if is it different for women, Luxon said: "I'm not sure about that. You've seen other countries around the world where you get this just deep polarisation of political views."

Dr Suze Wilson, a senior lecturer at Massey University's School of Management, said: "He should know better".

"He's talked about being a role model in his own conduct. He could role model being a support for women and challenging and calling out that behaviour and saying it's not okay."

Mere hours later Luxon walked back his comments.

"I think there is an element of gendered abuse that happens with female politicians that's different from what we experience as men, I think," he said. 

Labour's deputy leader Kelvin Davis said, "us men need to stand up and address [it]."

"[It] shouldn't be left to women to have to defend misogynistic and sexist attacks on their own."

Luxon's deputy Nicola Willis has not been spared from the misogyny.

"I think it's worst for me when people call into question my ability to be a good mother. That hurts."

Luxon said, "there's no doubt about it, women get more gendered vilification, particularly online".

It's something Luxon should have known - and acknowledged - immediately.