Seven Sharp host Hilary Barry has spoken out about her concern for former TV presenter Liz Gunn after the conspiracy theorist was arrested at Auckland Airport.
Gunn and a cameraman are facing charges after an incident with an airport security guard on Saturday night. The pair were attempting to film the arrival of a family kept in lockdown in Tokelau after refusing the Covid vaccine.
Barry took to Twitter last night to comment on the incident: “This is posted without animosity but please keep Liz Gunn in your thoughts and prayers. Her descent into the conspiracy realm makes me really sad and concerned,” she wrote.
Singer Lizzie Marvelly replied to Barry, agreeing with the popular TV host: “It feels very painful to watch. I worry for her. And also despair for the people she’s influencing and dragging down the rabbit hole with her.”
Gunn was previously best-known for quitting TVNZ’s Breakfast show on live TV in 2001.
Others didn’t show quite the same support for Barry yesterday, with one Twitter user responding: “Do you have the same sympathy for all the other conspiracy theorists that fell down the rabbit hole? Or is it that Liz gets special treatment bcos she’s an ex presenter on Good Morning & Breakfast? What abt the harm her conspiracies caused 2 the public?”
Another accused Barry of being “a propaganda arm for the Government”.
According to social media posts by Gunn supporters, a security guard asked the pair to stop filming before things “escalated so quickly that, before the pair knew it, they were being arrested by police”. She was apparently detained by police in handcuffs.
Police have confirmed to media that two people — a 63-year-old woman and a 49-year-old man — have been arrested.
According to a social media post from the far-right Counterspin Media website, which broadcasts conspiracy theories and discredited Covid-19 misinformation, the cameraman has been charged with willful trespass and resisting arrest. “He has received a summons to appear at Manukau court on Thursday, March 23, at 9am. At this stage, the same is likely for Liz but her paperwork was [missing] so this is yet to be confirmed.”
Yesterday the New Zealand Outdoors & Freedom Party posted about the arrest and said Gunn was “now safe at home, surrounded by good friends” and that the arrest, which the post claims involved a “jumped up Karen” and a “bully cop” came as a “shock”.
Gunn was at Auckland Airport to interview a family who had been kept in lockdown in Tokelau after refusing the Covid vaccine.
The general manager for the office of the council of Nukunonu, Asi Pasilio, explained to RNZ Pacific why the council of 36 heads of extended families who serve the atoll’s community, decided to impose tunoa (house arrest) system in August 2021.
”This is a village rule, this is the decision of the local council which runs the island and the community. We have the laws of Tokelau but we also have the local council which has the authority over their village.”
Pasilio said there were no jails in Tokelau, but when there is a serious offence the council can just ask people to stay at home. Tunoa takes the place of jail. She said it was a culturally complex issue. ”It will take someone to come here and live our life here, to understand what we mean by house arrest and council authority and communal living.”Yes, of course, you make your own decisions here, but doing things in a communal manner is very common.”
Gunn quit her job on live TV
Gunn, who began her career as a litigation lawyer, presented Sunday for TVNZ in the early 1990s. She was part of the original TVNZ Breakfast team alongside Mike Hosking and Susan Wood in 1997. In 2001, Gunn took Alison Mau’s place as host, forming a team alongside Hosking.
She sparked a string of headlines when she suddenly quit live on air.
During her time at TVNZ between 1990 and 2003, Gunn also worked at Radio New Zealand, hosting a number of shows before finishing in 2016.
Her more recent media activities have played out on social media in the shape of conspiratorial videos. She was also a prominent supporter of the parents in the case of Baby W — in which the baby’s parents did not want their ill baby to receive a blood transfusion from anyone who had received the Covid vaccine.
In 2021, Gunn suggested that an earthquake that hit the central North Island was Mother Nature’s response to then Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern’s announcement about new vaccination targets, passports, and the traffic light system.
In a media column, Herald journalist Damien Venuto wrote: “The problem with Gunn’s dalliance with conspiracy theories is that her voice still carries some credibility after three decades on New Zealand television and radio. Her recent clips are well-produced, often employing the skills she developed during her time in mainstream media. If you were to encounter one of these clips during a daily scroll through Facebook, it would be easy to mistake it for a video from a legitimate media company.”