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New Zealand journalist Tova O’Brien praised for tough TV interview with fringe party politician Jami-Lee Ross

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A New Zealand journalist has been praised for shutting down a fringe party politician accused of spreading misinformation about the coronavirus pandemic.

Newshub’s political editor Tova O’Brien interviewed Jami-Lee Ross, the leader of the Advance New Zealand party, following the election on Saturday, which saw Jacinda Ardern’s Labour Party secure a landslide victory .

Mr Ross’s party had merged with the New Zealand Public Party, which had been accused of peddling coronavirus conspiracy theories during the campaign.

During the interview, Ms O’Brien confronted Mr Ross about the claims, saying: “You know exactly what you were doing; you were whipping up fear and hysteria among vulnerable communities.”

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Mr Ross, who has spent a decade in New Zealand’s parliament, denied this was the case. He then tried to respond with statistics about the virus, but Ms O’Brien cut him off.

“No, no, no, I do not want to hear any of that rubbish,” she said.

At one point, she put her hand up to stop him talking about the mortality rate of Covid-19 compared to the flu.

The politician also said he only stepped down in his seat to prevent Labour from winning it. The Labour party won an outright majority in New Zealand’s parliament with 49.1 per cent of the vote.

Ms O’Brien replied: “You’re dreaming mate”.

The interview drew praise from journalists for her interview style.

“An absolute masterclass in interviewing a politician by New Zealand’s @TovaOBrien – one of the best interviews of a politician I’ve seen. Also one of the most entertaining,” journalist Glenn Greenwald tweeted.

Guardian columnist Owen Jones retweeted a video of the interview, describing it as like watching “an anxiety dream”.

Ms O’Brien, who previously worked as the station’s Europe correspondent, welcomed the international response. She tweeted: “Whoa! That’s quite something to wake up to”.

Mr Ross has previously spoken about his battle with mental health.

He resigned from the National Party in 2018 after an independent investigation concluded he was the likely person behind the leak of leader Simon Bridges’ travel expenses.

He was admitted for mental health treatment in October of that year after a late-night incident and discharged three days later.

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