best tracker ‘Disgraceful’: Anger within Invercargill Council over mayor’s latest use of N-word – Techss

‘Disgraceful’: Anger within Invercargill Council over mayor’s latest use of N-word

During an interview on New Zealand Today, Nobby Clark defended his use of the N-word and coaxed comedian Guy Williams into using it too. Stewart Sowman-Lund reports.

An Invercargill councillor has spoken out about what she called “disgraceful” comments by mayor Nobby Clark on Three’s New Zealand Today.

Clark, 72, was interviewed by comedian Guy Williams on an episode of the comedy programme that aired Thursday night. During the interview, the mayor used the N-word several times, along with a slur used against members of the Rainbow community. He was unrepentant over his use of the words and attempted to coax Williams into using them too.

During the episode, Williams claims to have said the N-word (off-air) in an effort to stop Clark repeating it further.

In an interview with the Southland Tribune before the episode aired, Clark said he expected to be “stitched up” by Williams. But, he also revealed it took 20 minutes to convince Williams to say the N-word himself. “I said to him, ‘do you expect to lose your job in the media now because you’ve used the N-word’? Because I had pressure on me to resign as mayor because I used it.”

Williams’ interview with the mayor – and the line of questioning around racial slurs – was linked to an event Clark attended in March last year that was widely reported on.

During a speech at the Arts Foundation and Creative NZ event, Clark commented on what he saw as the balance between freedom of speech and hate speech, using a book – and subsequent publicly funded stage show – by award-winning poet Tusiata Avia as the basis for his statements.

“Does poetic expression override some of our societal norms?” questioned Clark, before stating: “If we have art and poetry that uses the word ‘queer’, ’n*****’, ‘fuck the bitch’, which you’ve heard recently – is that beyond our tolerance?”

The incident sparked backlash from within the mayor’s own city and dozens of emails were sent to Clark labelling him an “embarrassment” and urging him to apologise – which he refused to do. In response to many of the complainants, Clark said: “I fear nobody (except Karen at home)”.

Guy Williams interviews Nobby Clark on New Zealand Today

The premise of last night’s episode of New Zealand Today saw Williams attempting to teach Clark why it was wrong to use words like this. Clark disagreed, believing if it was acceptable for people to label members of the Rainbow community “queer”, then he could also use the N-word.

Ria Bond, a former New Zealand First MP elected to Invercargill Council in 2022, told The Spinoff that the public needed to be made aware of Clark’s views. “I think Invercargill should be very concerned about the mayor and his mentality,” she said. “It was shocking to see what the mayor had said.”

Bond, who is Māori, said she had “grown up with racism” and believed Clark’s behaviour should not be tolerated. “I think ‘embarrassing’ is not a strong enough word, I think it’s disgraceful. I have no respect for the mayor in this matter,” she said.

This isn’t the first incident involving Williams attempting to teach a controversial political figure a lesson on his show. In a 2022 episode of New Zealand Today, he interviewed Auckland mayoral candidate and businessman Leo Molloy, after which the pair took part in a caricatured boxing match. Throughout, Molloy made increasingly outrageous remarks.

In reflection, Williams told The Spinoff at the time that he thought it was clear he was “very anti Leo Molloy” though acknowledged concerns around platforming controversial figures.

Williams said during last night’s episode that he had conducted “thousands” of interviews and none had “been as cooked” as his conversation with Clark. He told The Spinoff today that the interview was a “bloody disaster” and believed Clark was “down a Facebook rabbit hole of misinformation”.

He added: “I hope that [Clark] is embarrassed, I hope that he feels some shame.”

Clark told Stuff: “I don’t care.”

Asked whether it was better to ignore Clark or report on controversies like this, councillor Bond said she believed the mayor got “enjoyment out of making a situation uncomfortable”. On his repeated use of the slur, and his claims it was acceptable, she added: “You can’t teach an old dog new tricks.”

Nobby Clark on New Zealand Today

Others on council have also criticised Clark’s use of the N-word on last night’s episode. Darren Ludlow told The Spinoff that while he hadn’t seen the interview in question, he had been made aware of it by some “upset” members of the public.

“I wouldn’t have [said the N-word] – not in the initial circumstance, nor with the Guy Williams show, especially since we were aware of the upset in parts of the community from the first time. That’s my opinion. However, the choice is [Clark’s],” said Ludlow.

While Ludlow said that Williams, as a comedian, was entitled to interview the mayor in whatever way he chose, he added: “There’s nothing like rubbing an old sore and bringing that discomfort back – which, in my opinion, is what Guy aimed to do.”

Another councillor, Barry Stewart, who told The Spinoff he saw “eye to eye” with Clark on race relations issues, agreed the use of the N-word was inappropriate. But, he said Williams should have been up front about the content of the interview before speaking with Clark.

Clark defended last night’s interview to Stuff, saying he hadn’t watched it and “wasn’t particularly interested” in doing so. The Spinoff understands that Clark didn’t know who Williams was before the interview and was surprised by the comedian’s approach. Clark’s also said to have agreed to the interview without council’s knowledge.

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