Singers Ed Sheeran, Lorde and Ellie Goulding and NRL star Benji Marshall have weighed in on the sacking of X Factor's husband and wife judges Natalia Kills and Willy Moon.
Recording artists around the world have shown their support on social media for contestant Joe Irvine who was humiliated during a live show on Sunday after his performance of Cry Me a River.
Others have taken aim at Kills and Moon, taking them to task for bullying.
Kills had accused Irvine of copying her husband, fellow judge Willy Moon, "from the hair to the suit", and said he was a "laughing stock" and made her "sick". Moon added that Irvine reminded him of a creepy killer and found his performance "cheap and absurd".
Lorde added her voice to the huge swell of support for Irvine, sending him a note and cupcakes:
Sheeran tweeted to tell Irvine: "Don't worry about what anyone else says man. Enjoy yourself with it, that's what singing is about, not what other people think."
In reply, Irvine, who survived last night's elimination show, thanked Sheeran and said he'd like to meet him.
Irvine also thanked his fans in a video post:
A representative for Warner Music, which represents Sheeran, said they would love for Sheeran and Irvine to meet and "will try and make this happen when Ed is in town".
Former X Factor judge Ruby Frost also tweeted her support: "Sorry you had to see the ugly side of it all, your value is worth much more than anyone's opinion!"
Goulding criticised Kills and Moon. In a tweet, since deleted, she wrote: "You sort of have to be, you know, vaguely relevant to have your style stolen just saying."
She added: "Can't stop myself from commenting on NZ X factor situation because I can't stop thinking about how mean it was. Thank goodness they're gone.
"Just genuinely awful because I'm not sure they were intent on ruining their careers FOREVER."
Former NZ Idol judge Paul Ellis said Moon and Kllls had ruined their careers. "Social media today will pretty much kill their careers," he told TV One's Breakfast. "Both had been dropped by their record labels so they came here [New Zealand] on the premise of trying to resuscitate their career, and actually they've snuffed them out."
Marshall said the only positive from the saga was the way Irvine handled himself - "with class in the face of adversity".
"In the NRL we don't condone bullying in any form anywhere. What I saw on the X Factor NZ last night by Natalia Kills and Willy Moon, who are supposed to be so-called judges, mentors and role models was one of the worst forms of bullying and totally unacceptable! As a proud Kiwi I am embarrassed by this," he said.
Human Rights Commissioner Dame Susan Devoy said the comments made by Moon and Kills were "completely unacceptable" and "bullying".
"Whether we're at work, at school or on stage at an X Factor talent show: bullying isn't acceptable," she said.
Last night's show was the season's highest rating episode, with a reported 438,320 viewers, up on the 255,900 who tuned in on Sunday - and the first time the series has passed the 400,000 mark.
However, it was still only the third most watched programme last night, behind One News and Seven Sharp, and may not be enough to lift the overall fortunes of the show, which has been sliding in the ratings.
The episode featured only Stan Walker and Melanie Blatt in the judges' chairs.
Walker and Blatt held hands as they were welcomed on stage by host Dominic Bowden, who introduced the show saying: "Following last night's show, Mediaworks has made the decision that Willy Moon and Natalia Kills are leaving the show.
"From all of us, we believe it was the right thing to do. The good news is we're bringing in new mentors for the boys and the groups. They'll be sitting in those chairs right there next week."
Walker and Blatt are set to do double duty as mentors and judges, with Blatt taking over Moon's groups category and Walker overseeing Kills' boys.
Blatt was keen to turn the conversation away from the controversy, saying: "It wasn't about the talent last night and this show is all about that. I love this show so much. All the acts that were on last night, they've been working for weeks and weeks to get this right I feel like we didn't talk about them enough. I just want to tell them that I'm so proud and they all smashed it."
Walker tweeted after the show:
Mediaworks, the owners of TV3, announced it had fired Kills and Moon just hours before the pair were due to feature on last night's show.
It is understood the media company had come under extreme pressure from sponsors and Walker and Blatt to take action.
Moon and Kills spent more than four hours on set at the studio before Mediaworks chief executive Mark Weldon arrived, in person, to deliver the news. Shortly afterwards, the couple were filmed being driven away from the studio, waving at the camera as they passed.
Announcing the sackings yesterday, Mr Weldon said: "Kills and Moon made comments that were completely unacceptable. While the judges on X Factor are expected to provide critiques of the performances, we will not tolerate such destructive tirades from any of the judges," he said.
"Contestants put their all into this competition and they should expect to receive feedback and criticism that is professional and constructive. We no longer have confidence that Kills and Moon are the right people to perform the role of X Factor judges and they will leave the show, effective immediately."
TV chiefs under pressure
The owner of the X Factor franchise, FremantleMedia, said Kills and Moon had shown "very poor judgement and intention".
"We 100 per cent support TV3 and MediaWorks in their decision to remove them. The X Factor does not tolerate the behaviour they displayed last night," a spokesman said.
The network's handling of the X Factor franchise is being closely scrutinised by FremantleMedia and Simon Cowell, who have already warned TV3 producers about bringing the show into disrepute over the controversy over Shae Brider - a contestant whose role in the killing of a teenager was downplayed by the show.
Both Moon and Kills were heavily criticised on social media for their treatment of Irvine, with Blatt and Walker chiding Kills and saying the situation was out of control.
Walker, who has fronted anti-bullying campaigns, tweeted: "Im sooooo sorry for any offence tonight... Things got real heated & a lil out of control but Joe is allgood, hes the man...."
He also cautioned his followers not to bully Kills and Moon over the incident: "There is a time and place for everything. For ME it ain't on TV. I am completely against bullying, but fighting fire with fire ain't the way."
Yesterday he posted on Instagram: "It's out of control now... We're better than that... Justice will prevail... Dont attck her cos ur just falling in2 her trap. Then u become the bully... Dont exalt her by insulting her cos u are making her more famous... Like i kinda am now lol... Aaaarrrgg this is stressful... God bless everyone.... Peace & harmony yall..."
He added on Twitter: "Everyone, even tho she is in the wrong, 2 wrongs dont make a right, dont attack her & lower urselves 2 be like that. This is out of control!"
Blatt tweeted after Sunday's show: "I quite obvs am not cool with what went down last night but remember 2 wrongs do not make a right. whatever the reason or outlet you use."
She later tweeted: "Ive tried to keep my cool and stay professional but really @nataliakills? Sorry love , you're a t***".
Irvine responded to the incident, tweeting this morning:
In the hours after Sunday's show, Kills and Moon were active on social media, but did not respond directly to the controversy.
Just before her sacking, Kills tweeted: "I love you guys, thanks for your support & understanding my passionate opinions! You know what they say about me .." She included a link to an explicit video of her song Problem.
On Sunday she had tweeted: "Had the most fun at the live shows tonight! So many new followers! Love you all - time to celebrate!" She also wrote "love you baby" to Moon and posted a link a picture of actors Woody Harrelson and Juliette Lewis in the controversial 1994 Quentin Tarantino film Natural Born Killers:
Moon tweeted before the sacking: "These pretzels are making me thirsty", which is slang for "this is making me angry".
'TV3 does not condone bullying'
Before sacking Kills and Moon TV3 issued a statement on Facebook, saying it did not condone bullying. "Following tonight's episode of The X Factor NZ we received a huge amount of feedback about comments made by our judges. The nature of live television can be unpredictable and we appreciate you taking the time to voice your opinion. TV3 does not condone bullying and are currently on-site with Joe who is doing well," it said.
A petition on Change.org asked for Kills to be removed as a judge from the show has more than 21,000 supporters and Family First called for a boycott of the show.
X Factor viewers, including some past contestants, also criticised Kills, with the hashtag #xfactornz trending on Twitter after the show. Last season's runner-up, Benny Tipene, said he was "gutted that I went back on the show now eh. Especially with someone so heartless. F*** that feedback."
Even All Black Israel Dagg weighed in:
Irvine himself tweeted he had "survived the Kills!"
How it happened
In her judgment of Irvine's performance, Kills said: "As an artist who respects creative integrity and intellectual property, I am disgusted at how much you have copied my husband, from the hair to the suit. Do you not have any value or respect for originality?
"You're a laughing stock. It's cheesy, it's disgusting, I personally found it absolutely artistically atrocious. I am embarrassed to be sitting here in your presence having to even dignify you with an answer of my opinion ... it's disgusting, you make me sick ... I'm ashamed to even be here."
Moon, who hit headlines over the weekend for allegedly swearing at an Auckland mother in a bakery, continued the criticism. "To me, it just feels a little bit cheap and absurd," he said of the performance.
Moon said Irvine reminded him of Psycho killer Norman Bates: "It's just a little bit creepy ... I feel like you're going to stitch someone's skin to your face and then kill everyone in the audience."
TV3 faces questions over its handling of the X Factor franchise and its reality TV stable. Last month TV3 was at the centre of a media storm for minimising the role an X Factor contestant played in the manslaughter of a teenager in 2004. And on Friday it came under fire over revelations one of the contestants on The Bachelor NZ was sentenced to 18 months' jail for stealing almost $40,000 from her employer.
Moon and Kills caused headaches for TV3 outside the X Factor. Last week Moon abused an Auckland mother at a bakery, hissing the C-word at her in front of customers and staff.
X Factor producers TV3 issued an apology on Moon's behalf on Friday, saying he regretted the incident and his language, but Moon said at the weekend he was not sorry, and accused the woman, Tracey Neal-Gailer, of lying.
Neal-Gailer had sent a letter to Moon on Facebook last week, asking for an apology, with the Herald publishing it in full on Saturday.
SCROLL TO END OF ARTICLE TO READ TRACEY NEAL-GAILER'S LETTER TO WILLY MOON
But Moon and Kills abused Neal-Gailer on Twitter after the story appeared.
"Not only a **** but a lying **** judging from that 'statement' you [nzherald.co.nz] saw fit to print. Laughable. Bored?," Moon posted.
He added: "'Woman proves my point by writing long inaccurate sad letter detailing how much of a **** she is'". Better headline."
His wife also came out swinging: "Why did you invent a quote my husband NEVER said?! He never apologized to that c*** lady. Stop defending her bullying," Kills wrote.
She added: "Hilarious that lady is proving not only how much of a c*** she is, but also a lying c***! 'Children present'?! Where?!"
Moon had originally abused Neal-Gailer on Tuesday morning at the Baker's Cottage, in the Auckland suburb of Kingsland, where she was buying a cake to celebrate her 51st birthday.
Moon became riled in the bakery carpark. Ms Neal-Gailer believed he thought she had taken his parking space.
"He was a passenger in a car being driven by a woman and he became very upset when I pulled into a space before him, even though I had the right of way," she said.
"He got out of the car and was waving his finger at me and saying, 'No, no, no." He then snarled, 'That was so rude', as we both went into the bakery."
Worse was to follow in the bakery, Moon calling her a "c***" in front of stunned staff and customers. "This is a man who is supposed to mentor young people on national television and what he said was disgraceful," Neal-Gailer said.
"I couldn't believe it when he twice hissed at me, 'You are such a c***'."
Television commentator and founder of throng.co.nz Regan Cunliffe says the ratings for X Factor are "not great" particularly when compared to the first season.
Numbers dropped significantly following the Shae Brider controversy, however, Cunliffe says that was part of a wider trend, which sees viewer numbers drop off after the audition rounds. "I don't think Shae Brider in itself had an impact on the ratings," he says. "But the problem they have is all these things start to mount up."
Cunliffe was in the live studio audience last night when Kills made her comments to Irvine but says, at first, the audience didn't realise she was condemning him.
"The strange thing is you can't see the judges' faces ... She starts talking and half the audience went 'yeah' and cheered. All of a sudden, it was like, 'where the hell is she going with this?'. Very quickly, the audience turned. There was certainly a sense of shock."
Cunliffe said he was disappointed by the outburst and the fact it has diverted attention from other contestants' performances. "Once again, here we are all talking about the judges. 13 acts are trying to make a career for themselves. Who's talking about them today?"
TV3's handling of X Factor is being closely scrutinsed by FremantleMedia and Cowell's company, Syco Entertainment, which own the format. A clause in the contract stipulates the show can't be brought into disrepute.
Last month Cowell and Freemantle Media blamed TV3 producers for "a very poor editorial decision" for allowing a convicted killer on the show.
They said they had had serious discussions with TV3 about contestant Brider, and said "a more rigid approval process" has been introduced so that it wouldn't happen again.
Brider was sentenced to eight years' jail for his part in the manslaughter of 16-year-old Jeremy Frew in Wanganui in 2004, and in a segment aired on X Factor last week admitted on air that he was involved in a fatal stabbing and described the crime as "a commotion".
However, the victim's mother says Brider did not tell the whole truth in the segment and lashed out at TV3 for not warning her of Brider's appearance.
It is understood that special dispensation would have needed to be sought to use Brider, on the show and MediaWorks failed to get permission.
Tracey Neal-Gailer's letter to WIlly Moon
Dear Willy Moon,
You may or may not remember me because I honestly don't know how many people you verbally abuse in any given day. I am the one at the bakery this morning that you called (actually hissing!) the 'C' word in front of a shop full of bakery customers and staff. This was after a small incident where you were delayed by a matter of seconds after I went in front of you into the bakery carpark (turning off a busy main road, having cars behind me and, actually, the legal right of way as I was turning left and you were turning right).
This incident seemed to enrage you to the point of getting out of your car, shaking your finger at me and shouting. I thought at the time that perhaps you were upset that I might be taking the last carpark, but no, there were several empty spaces available. After being 'told off' by you in the carpark, we both proceeded to transact our bakery purchases.
It was upon leaving that you thought it incumbent upon yourself to remind me of my transgression by using that particular word.
Given your current public profile, I am surprised that you thought that you were entitled to use language like that at any time, let alone in front of a shop full of people, at least half of whom recognised you. The two young Asian girls next to you, who had been whispering about you in a look-who-it-is-golly-a-celebrity kind of way, looked shocked and the lady behind the counter asked if I was alright. I was a bit shaken up but thanks for asking.
Can I suggest a short brush-up course on the current road rules and perhaps some anger management therapy? The groups that you are supposedly 'mentoring' are very likely to annoy you at some point and we wouldn't want any embarrassing, misogynist and potentially actionable, outbursts caught on camera, would we?
The woman you called a c*** this morning at 9.15 at the Bakers Cottage in Kingsland (in case there are any other women you have called this today).
Where to get help:
• Lifeline: 0800 543 354 (available 24/7)
• Suicide Crisis Helpline: 0508 828 865 (0508 TAUTOKO) (available 24/7)
• Youth services: (06) 3555 906
• Youthline: 0800 376 633
• Kidsline: 0800 543 754 (4pm to 6pm weekdays)
• Whatsup: 0800 942 8787 (1pm to 11pm)
• The Word
• Depression helpline: 0800 111 757 (available 24/7)
• Rainbow Youth: (09) 376 4155
• CASPER Suicide Prevention
If it is an emergency and you feel like you or someone else is at risk, call 111.