Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern says she's not about to start editing her partner's social media comments - but says she and Clarke Gayford accept they're in the public eye.
Deborah Hill Cone's NZ Herald column yesterday has divided readers, after she wrote that she admired Ardern but found Gayford's posing for photos "cringey" and his personality presented in the media as smug.
Gayford, a columnist for the Herald on Sunday, hit back at Hill Cone on Twitter, comparing her to a "bottom-feeding fish" which features on his show, Fish of the Day.
"And welcome back to NZ - lol. Here's some other bottom feeding fish who I'd never met which feature as breaking news this weds 8pm on Prime TV, FISH OF THE DAY. - in the stunning COROMANDEL," the tweet read.
Ardern told Newstalk ZB's Mike Hosking today that she and Gayford accepted they were in the public eye, but that she was not about to start editing his social media.
"He had a public profile long before I came along. That means both of us have been in the public eye."
She said she accepted that came with positive and negative attributes.
"He supports me hugely and I appreciate that.
"He made some comment about some fish," she laughed.
On the AM Show, Ardern said she had not read the Hill Cone column but could tell "it wasn't particularly nice".
"Regardless of political favour I would say that wouldn't be right. I still think there are lines."
Gayford hit out at Hill Cone, who accused him of piggybacking off Ardern's success, but readers' reactions show the country is divided over the matter.
In a column published in the Herald yesterday, Deborah Hill Cone said she was "not convinced" by Gayford's "hipster salty seadog" narrative.
In the column, Hill Cone claimed she admired Ardern but found Gayford's posing for photos "cringey" and his personality presented in the media as smug.
"There's something about our First Bloke that keeps nagging me every time I see his cheerful face," she wrote.
"Ardern seems to have done well in that regard. And I'm a feminist. I should be applauding Gayford for stepping up to this new role. So why does the 'first man of fishing' give me a little bit of acid reflux?"
Many Herald readers and listeners calling in to Newstalk ZB contributed their two cents' worth, most defending Gayford and questioning what they dubbed a "personal attack".
"Past PM wives or husbands have not been subject to this sort of public ridicule," one reader wrote.
Another commenting on the column queried why it had become a "different ball game" now the Prime Minister's partner was male.
"Goodness how many Prime Ministers' wives over the years travelled with their husbands at the expense of the taxpayer," they wrote. "Just because their photos might not have been of fishing but rather shopping and beauty salons huh?"
Others lashed out at Hill Cone, calling the commentary "mean-spirited".
"Why shouldn't the man be smug. his partner is the PM and they're having a baby. Seems to me he's having a really good year," one pointed out. "He should be smug."
Although many were opposed to the opinions expressed in the column, a small proportion threw their weight behind Hill Cone, suggesting he was "lapping up" the attention.
ZB host Heather du Plessis-Allan also weighed into the discussion. She was in two minds about the issue.
She said "cutesy" pictures of him and Ardern provided New Zealand great "PR" on the world stage, but she also claimed Gayford was Ardern's "weakest link".
"He doesn't know when to pull back," she said.
"Before the election he was defending the Prime Minister when she was just the Labour leader and he did a big crybaby thing about why people are mean to his girlfriend."