Gerry Brownlee apologises to Prime Minister after his account likes tweet calling Jacinda Ardern 'tyrant'

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and National's Gerry Brownlee.
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and National's Gerry Brownlee. Photo credit: Getty Images.

National MP Gerry Brownlee is apologising to the Prime Minister after his Twitter account liked a tweet referring to Jacinda Ardern as a "tyrant" and "one of the most hated leaders of modern times".

It's understood the tweet was liked by a staffer with access to Brownlee's account. Brownlee himself has denied it was him, telling Newshub: "Definitely not from me… absolutely not". 

"I only became aware this had happened this afternoon and it is totally unacceptable", he said.

"The personalisation of politics is not something I would ever do. The way the Prime Minister has been treated online is appalling. I have apologised unreservedly to her office for my account being used in this way.

"I'm taking steps to reconsider the management of my social media accounts. This is an employment matter and it is being treated on that basis."

Brownlee told Newshub others had access to his account to help with tweeting and that he'd make inquiries.

The tweet, which has since been unliked, was from a Twitter account that has shared COVID-19 vaccine conspiracy theories and promotes anti-government protests around the world.

National leader Christopher Luxon said on Tuesday he disagreed with the kind of language used by the individual who wrote the tweet.

"That's utterly unacceptable. I think we need to be very respectful of the reasons the Prime Minister gave for why she resigned and I think we don't want to put words into her mouth."

Luxon said he wished Ardern "nothing but the very best".

When Ardern announced her resignation, she said it was because she didn't have enough energy left in the tank to commit to serving as Prime Minister.

But her announcement has also sparked a conversation over the abuse levelled at Ardern during her time in office. 

After Ardern announced her resignation last Thursday, former Prime Minister Helen Clark wrote that Ardern faced a torrent of abuse.

"The pressures on Prime Ministers are always great, but in this era of social media, clickbait, and 24/7 media cycles, Jacinda has faced a level of hatred and vitriol which in my experience is unprecedented in our country," Clark wrote. 

"Our society could now usefully reflect on whether it wants to continue to tolerate the excessive polarisation which is making politics an increasingly unattractive calling."

Ardern has denied misogynistic rhetoric played into her decision to step down from the top job. 

"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."

She said she faced challenges in her role, but it wasn't all dark. 

On Tuesday, during her final speech as Prime Minister, Ardern said the "overwhelming experience in this job of New Zealand and New Zealanders has been one of love, empathy and kindness".

"That has been what the majority of New Zealand has shown to me".