TVNZ's Breakfast programme reporter Wilson Longhurst was today forced to apologise after his comments criticising a woman's appearance live on air.

After a segment featuring the woman, Longhurst commented on her hair and teeth.

"What a prize Jessica is, with all her teeth and her hair," the reporter said, referring to the woman in the story.

Presenter John Campbell did not like Longhurst's comment, saying "this isn't a eugenics competition," and telling Longhurst to "get out".

John Campbell endorsed Longhurt's apology. Photo / TVNZ
John Campbell endorsed Longhurt's apology. Photo / TVNZ

"I'll be having a little bit of a chat with Wilson later," he added.

Longhurst later apologised on air for the comments, and said he regretted what he said.

While many applauded Campbell for standing up for the woman and against the "misogynistic" comments, not everyone appreciate the on-air word exchange.

"How about counselling a junior colleague off air instead of publicly flogging him and hanging him out to dry for his mistake - Hardly a safe space for him," Newstalk ZB host Tim Beveridge wrote on Twitter.

Other Twitter users agreed that there were better ways for Campbell to make his views known to his colleague and suggested that doing it on air was a form of "virtue signalling".

"That wouldn't allow for maximum virtue signalling though Tim," one person replied.

"I agree. Campbell's response was atrocious," another Twitter user said.

"Yes, he did wrong and there's a time and place for counselling. They bullied him into apologising. Sad," someone else commented.


Others believed Campbell's exchange with Longhurst was "bullying".

"@JohnJCampbell Workplace bullying is ugly and a problem in NZ workplaces. Sadly, you have given us a real live example of how to humiliate younger member of the team - with an audience. Shame on you," one person wrote. "@WorkSafeNZ please investigate this bully. @TVNZ this is not acceptable. #bully"

Longhurst apologised for his comment later on the show.

Wilson Longhurst apologised for his comments about a woman named Jessica in the story. Photo / TVNZ
Wilson Longhurst apologised for his comments about a woman named Jessica in the story. Photo / TVNZ

"What I said wasn't funny, it was quite frankly something that just slipped out, but it was a misogynistic comment and I'm sorry," he told viewers.

He added his comments "weren't good enough", and that he was "really disappointed" in himself. He directly apologised to viewers who had written in to the show with their feedback.

Campbell and co-presenter Hayley Holt responded to his apology.


Campbell said: "I think it's important to clarify what we stand for on Breakfast, and that is we don't punch down. Our targets are never soft. And I think that's something we're really proud of on this programme – it's a safe place, and we like to speak truth to power."

Holt said Longhurst's apology was important.

"It's not what we do, it's how we respond afterwards. If you are feeling sorry and you're going to learn from this episode, then you're okay."

In a statement to media, TVNZ said: "Breakfast TV is a live environment and involves some sleep-deprived reporting. Wilson made a comment he immediately regretted and he wished to make an apology on air. Our producers agreed this was the right thing to do."