Gerry Brownlee: 'I totally reject any idea that I'm a conspiracy theorist'

Author
Amelia Wade, NZ Herald,
Publish Date
Tue, 18 Aug 2020, 2:13PM
National Party deputy leader Gerry Brownlee says he apologises if people misinterpreted his 'interesting facts' comments. Photo / Mark Mitchell
National Party deputy leader Gerry Brownlee says he apologises if people misinterpreted his 'interesting facts' comments. Photo / Mark Mitchell

Gerry Brownlee: 'I totally reject any idea that I'm a conspiracy theorist'

Author
Amelia Wade, NZ Herald,
Publish Date
Tue, 18 Aug 2020, 2:13PM

National's deputy leader Gerry Brownlee has again batted away suggestions he was stoking the flames of conspiracy theories with his "interesting facts" comments last week.

But then raised the same "facts" he was criticised for, including why Ashley Bloomfield publicly got a Covid-19 test.

"Well I just think that it's interesting that the man at the top of the tree was, at 102 days of clear, suddenly wanting to get tested," Brownlee said this morning.

In a press conference with leader Judith Collins last week, Brownlee outlined a number of events and said they were "an interesting series of facts".

Those included that the Government had urged New Zealanders to prepare for a possible outbreak then Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern visited a mask factory and Bloomfield got a test just hours before announcing community transmission.

Brownlee was pressed at the time about what he was implying and said: "I'm just outlining facts."

Brownlee was widely criticised for inciting conspiracy theories and later admitted on Chris Lynch's Newstalk ZB show he had got himself into a "bad spot" and that he "certainly didn't intend to create any fear".

Today Brownlee said he apologised if people misinterpreted his comments.

"I've said that's unfortunate. I've said I'm sorry people have taken it as being some kind of conspiracy accusation, it was never meant to be like that," he said.

"I totally reject any idea that I'm a conspiracy theorist or anything other than that."

Although he repeated it was "interesting" Bloomfield got the test - but refused to say what he was implying, just that New Zealand should have known something was coming and listened to the warnings.

"It's a fact that's happened - that's all."

Brownlee also stood by raising questions.

"I'm not apologising for asking questions - that's my job, I'm in Opposition. And if you look at the answers that were given in the House by Megan Woods about the security of the border then it was quite reasonable to ask those questions."

National's deputy leader was also asked about an email sent in his name to supporters last night asking for donations which said "Labour have the cards stacked in their favour", with wall-to-wall coverage, deep resources and "favourable media".

Brownlee said he didn't think it undermined the media but was "stating a fact".

"The reality is that the Prime Minister is on the airwaves every day at one o'clock if she chooses to be and the initiatives that are coming from Government are going to be covered more extensively," he said.

"We're a free country - I can certainly say that."

Collins was also asked about the situation but said it was "not for me to decide".

"I've never worried about it – I think it's always best to get on with it and do our jobs."