A television stoush between New Zealand First leader Winston Peters and a National Party insider got so heated filming was stopped and the show's lawyer called in.
Right-wing commentator Matthew Hooton called Peters a "f***ing c***" on the set of the TVNZ Eye to Eye show, ending a verbal altercation that started even before filming began, as Peters was having his makeup done.
Peters appeared on the show alongside NZ First MP and former party president Doug Woolerton, broadcaster Barry Soper and Hooton, a newspaper columnist and former National Party press secretary.
"I have to say," said the show's presenter, former Alliance MP Willie Jackson, "it was quite shocking behaviour from Mr Hooton. If he'd done it to [NZ First MP] Ronnie Mark he would have got his head knocked in."
Hooton confirmed he used the phrase but was unrepentant about his outburst. He denies he swore at Peters on camera. "My behaviour was entirely appropriate," he said.
A refilmed version screens at 11.30am today, minus the bulk of Hooton's insults but with plenty of fire.
Woolerton said the NZ First pair were expecting to face left-wing commentator Chris Trotter alongside Soper, and weren't told of the replacement.
Peters and Hooton have a history of mutual antagonism, with Peters referring to Hooton as a "discredited nobody" at NZ First's campaign launch last weekend.
Woolerton said Peters would have refused to appear on the show had he known earlier Hooton was taking part.
"The level of hatred and venom was something I would never have believed. I don't know what the man was on about."
As the camera rolled, Peters began answering a question from Jackson.
"Hooton butted in and started yelling at the top of his voice," said NZ First director of research Scott Devine.
"Willie told him to stop but Hooton wouldn't. It culminated in Hooton standing up and saying 'you're a f***ing c***'... I've never seen anything like it."