Australian radio shock jock Alan Jones has apologised to the New Zealand prime minister, Jacinda Ardern, for his comments on Thursday that Scott Morrison should shove a sock down her throat to stop her talking about climate change.
Morrison is in Tuvalu with Ardern for the Pacific Islands Forum, where Ardern had said Australia would have to “answer to the Pacific” for its inaction on climate change.
Jones’s apology comes a day and a half after his original comments, on the same day he doubled down and called her “gormless” and a “hypocrite”, and just hours after companies began withdrawing advertising from his radio station.
On Thursday evening, Jones, 78, said one had to “man up, pivot, face it, and apologise” when found to be wrong.
Jones told 2GB’s afternoon host, Ben Fordham, that his attention had been drawn to the fact that his comments had “given offence”.
“When that happens I have no difficulty apologising. Earlier today I did write to the New Zealand prime minister Jacinda [Ardern],” he said. “Amongst other things I said … I would never wish her any harm and would always wish her the best.”
He said his comments were nevertheless careless and “should have been more clearly thought”.
“I have erred and made a mistake”.
The radio host of more than three decades and former prime ministerial speechwriter said that “in this game you’ve got to choose your words carefully and I didn’t do that”.
Jones’s original comments were met with outrage from the Fiji prime minister, Frank Bainimarama, former Australian prime minister Malcolm Turnbull, and Morrison, who said they were “way out of line”.
Jones’s comments about climate change were also mostly factually wrong or misleading.
On Thursday evening he accused critics of having “wilfully misinterpreted” his comments and said he actually meant he wanted Ardern to “put a sock in it” herself.
However, he continued to defend himself on Friday morning by reading out reader messages of support, including one allegedly from an unnamed female political figure who he said told him she had never “met a man more supportive of women”.
He then said Ardern was gormless and a hypocrite, and maintained climate change concern was a hoax.
A change.org petition calling for an advertising boycott drew tens of thousands of signatures and on Thursday ME Bank announced it had pulled its ads from Jones’s show.
“We take this very seriously and these types of comments don’t reflect our values at all,” a spokesperson said. “We’ve expressed our concerns to 2GB and have pulled our advertising.”
Less than six hours later, Jones apologised.
Also on Thursday afternoon, former prime minister Malcolm Turnbull added to his criticism of Jones.
Turnbull told ABC’s RN Drive program Jones was an “appalling misogynist” with a track record of using violent language against women as his “regular rhetoric”.
Jones has repeatedly been criticised for misogynistic and other offensive comments over many years, and has usually offered apologies or been found by the regulator not to have breached standards.
In 2012, he said that the then prime minister, Julia Gillard, should be “shoved in a chaff bag” and taken out to sea.
“The woman’s off her tree and quite frankly they should shove her and Bob Brown in a chaff bag and take them as far out to sea as they can and tell them to swim home,” he said at the time.
In the same year he said Gillard’s father had died “of shame” because she “told lies every time she stood for parliament”.
In 2018 Jones was found to have breached “generally accepted standards of decency” in using a racist term in relation to federal minister Mathias Cormann.
In 2007 Jones was found to have encouraged violence and vilified people of Lebanese and Middle Eastern backgrounds with comments made before the 2005 Cronulla riots.