X Factor judges sacked for bullying contestant on live TV
TV3 HAS sacked Natalia Kills and Willy Moon from The X Factor after the husband and wife judges bullied a contestant on live TV last night.
Mediaworks, the owners of TV3, confirmed it had fired Kills and Moon just hours before the pair were due to feature on tonight's live elimination show.
It is understood the media company had come under extreme pressure from sponsors and fellow judges Stan Walker and Melanie Blatt to take action.
In a statement issued this afternoon, Mediaworks chief executive Mark Weldon said: "Last night on X Factor both 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."
Tonight's live show will be judged by Walker and Blatt, with two new judges to be announced this week.
The owner of the X Factor franchise, FremantleMedia, which has a said the judges had shown "very poor judgement and intention".
"We 100 percent 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 Shae Brider controversy.
X Factor executive producer Andrew Szusterman said: "We have reacted decisively and in the best interests of the contestants. We now need to move on and give the contestants and the public the competition they deserve."
TV3 under huge pressure
TV3 had come under huge pressure after Kills and Moon humiliated contestant Joe Irvine last night and called him "disgusting" and "creepy".
Kills 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 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."
2Degrees said: "MediaWorks has made the right call today to remove two of the judges from the X Factor NZ panel. Their behavior was out of line with our company values and we are pleased they've made this decision."
Judi Clements, chief executive of Mental Health Foundation, criticised the show, saying the comments by Kills and Moon "encouraged bullying, demeaning behaviour".
"We all have the responsibility to treat people with dignity and respect and not be cruel and hurtful. It's not about special treatment [for anyone suffering mental illness or depression].
"There is an issue about how this behaviour affects young people, in particular... It's the glorification of bullying behaviour."
TV3 chiefs also came under fire from New Zealand on Air, which has given X Factor $800,000 of funding. It said: "We have advised TV3 we are disappointed that the focus has been taken off the music. We do not condone bullying."
The controversy comes as audience numbers for the show continue to fall. Just 256,000 people tuned in to watch last night's episode, down on previous weeks. Earlier in the season, ratings were consistently above 300,000 per episode.