New Zealand outraged by X Factor judge's remarks

THE makers of X Factor New Zealand are under pressure after two of the show's sponsors criticised the bullying of a contestant on live TV last night and judges Stan Walker and Melanie Blatt turned on Natalia Kills and Willy Moon over the incident.

TV3 was forced to apologise after husband and wife judges Kills and Moon humiliated contestant Joe Irvine and called him "disgusting" and a "creepy".

Kills accused Mr 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 Mr Irvine reminded him of a creepy killer and found his performance of Cry Me a River "cheap and absurd".

McDonald's said this morning the comments made by Kills and Moon were unacceptable. "We have spoken to MediaWorks [the owners of TV3] regarding the incident involving Natalia Kills and Willy Moon, to make it clear that we believe the comments made were wholly unacceptable."

2 Degrees said it viewed the incident "very seriously".

Both Moon and Kills were heavily criticised on social media for their treatment of Mr 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 to not bully Kills and Moon over the incident: "There is a time & place for everything. For ME it aint on tv. I am completely against bullying, but fighting fire with fire aint the way."

This morning he posted on Facebook: "Its out of control now... Were 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: "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 last night: "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 tweeted this morning: "I've tried to keep my cool and stay professional but really @nataliakills? Sorry love, you';re a t***."

Kills and Moon have not responded directly to the accusations of bullying.

Kills tweeted this morning: "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.

Last night she 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.

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.

However, the statement is unlikely to quell the growing criticism of Kills and Moon. A petition on that 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 were 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."

The network's handling of the X Factor franchise is being closely scrutinised by owners FremantleMedia and Simon Cowell, who have already warned TV3 producers about bringing the show into disrepute.

In her judgement of Mr 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," Kills said. "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 have 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 mother, Tracey Neal-Gailer, of lying.

Ms Neal-Gailer had sent a letter to Moon on Facebook last week, asking for an apology, with the New Zealand Herald publishing it in full on Saturday.