Ousted X Factor NZ judge Natalia Kills has defended the incident that got her sacked, saying her comments were "light" compared to things Simon Cowell says on the show.
Kills has spoken at length for the first time since being engulfed in a bullying controversy that saw her and husband Willy Moon axed as judges from The X Factor New Zealand.
The pair attacked contestant Joe Irvine over his outfit and performance of Cry Me a River, with Kills saying he had copied Moon's look. Moon compared the Invercargill singer to a serial killer. Both were sacked by Mediaworks the following day, following a public outcry and disquiet from the show's sponsors.
Watch the incident below:
Kills and Moon sought refuge from a barrage of abuse as the story went global, returning to their home in New York and - aside from a brief apology and some occasional Twitter comments - remaining mostly silent. Until now.
Kills spoke directly with NZ Herald via Twitter, addressing the incident in detail and saying it had been hard "knowing the truth about what really went on, and not being able to say anything in my defence".
She compared the comments that got her sacked to things said by Cowell on The X Factor, and celebrity Chef Gordon Ramsay in his fiery cooking reality show Hell's Kitchen.
"I've been a fan of The X Factor and Simon Cowell my whole life and what we said is light compared to what Gordon Ramsay, Simon Cowell and many others have said on national television and been celebrated for," she said.
"It's so sad how they (TV3) encourage so much drama but then when their sponsor and the public react badly they release a statement branding us as 'bullies'."
Cowell, the creator of The X Factor franchise, has addressed the incident, telling the Daily Mail's Weekend magazine Kills sounded "mad".
Read more: Simon Cowell: Natalia Kills 'sounded mad'
"It was hateful. She sounded mad. It didn't even make sense ... Where they cocked up was that they didn't apologise straight away. If they'd both been genuinely sorry and called me, and apologised to the guy and his family, who knows what could have happened?
"They didn't. They were quite defensive."
TV3 also responded to Kills' criticisms, saying the axed judges' behaviour "was not in any way planned or endorsed by The X Factor NZ".
"Kills and Moon are solely responsible for their comments to Joe Irvine. MediaWorks does not condone any form of bullying."
Irvine, who was eliminated from the show this week, was praised for his reaction to Kills and Moon's criticism. During the furore, he received a personalised note and a box of cupcakes in support from pop star Lorde.
Kills, who has suffered a barrage of "hurtful and terrifying" online abuse including death threats since the incident, told the Herald she and her husband were critical of Irvine - but denied they were bullies.
"The racism, homophobia, death and rape threats and online attacks have been a real eye opener to what bullying really is," she said.
"It's not the same as criticism. It's not the same as being told off for your outfit choice. It's far greater and sadder than anything I've ever witnessed and I refuse to be the victim of it.
"When Joe hinted at what his show was going to be like I just knew, you know? And the fact that he didn't even react made it obvious to everyone (he was copying Moon) but coming from a music background, my husband and I had no idea how 'reality' TV was set up."
Kills, an actress and pop singer and writer, said she and Wellington-born Moon were doing well since returning home, and she was working on new music "non-stop".
"Since being home we've been so relieved! Music is where we belong. Madonna's album came out with my song Holy Water we co-wrote so I've been in the studio non-stop with some of the world's biggest producers and I'm working on my new music project too, writing songs with Willy despite everything."
At the time of their axing, MediaWorks CEO Mark Weldon said the duo's comments were completely unacceptable.
"While the judges on X Factor are expected to provide critiques of performances, we will not tolerate such destructive tirades from any of the judges," Weldon said.
"We no longer have confidence that Kills and Moon are the right people to perform the role of The X Factor judges, and they will leave the show, effective immediately."
Kills said the pair parted ways with TV3 "on good terms" and they were glad to have left the show when they did.
"It makes me glad to have got out before it got even worse. God only know what else could have happened!