Natalia Kills and her husband Willy Moon have been dropped as judges on X Factor NZ after a bullying tirade against a contestant.
Fans called for judge Natalia Kills to be taken off the show after she ripped into contestant Joe Irvine, accusing the singer of aping the style of Moon. She told Irvine he was “disgusting” and “artistically atrocious”.
Moon then chimed in, saying: “I feel like you’re going to stitch someone’s skin to your face and then kill everybody in the audience.”
MediaWorks chief executive Mark Weldon this afternoon released a statement saying Kills and Moon were no longer considered suitable to judge X Factor.
“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.”
An online petition calling for Kills to be taken off the show and the Facebook page Fire Natalia Kills from X Factor NZ were launched after the tirade. The change.org petition had been supported by 74,000 people by the time Kills and Moon were fired.
Fellow X Factor NZ judges Stan Walker and Mel Blatt had also lashed out at Kills on social media.
After Kills took to Twitter to thank fans who’d stood by her during the controversy, Walker responded with: "U think its alright 2 champion urself in ur disgusting actions with no remorse 4 being a bully. Wake up man & humble urself."
Blatt tweeted: "Ive tried to keep my cool and stay professional but really @nataliakills ? Sorry love , you're a twat," she tweeted.
Meanwhile, two of the show’s major sponsors, McDonald’s and 2Degrees Mobile, had expressed concern over the tirade against Irvine.
“All I can say at this stage is that we are taking this issue extremely seriously,” said 2Degrees communications manager Charlene White.
McDonald’s wouldn’t comment on whether they are reconsidering their sponsorship deal with the show, which is broadcast on MediaWorks owned TV3.
However, the fast food giant’s communications manager, Kim Bartlett, said: “We have spoken to MediaWorks regarding the incident involving Natalia Kills and Willy Moon, to make it clear that we believe the comments made were wholly unacceptable.
Kills’ outburst started with the UK-born singer saying: “As an artist who respects creative integrity and intellectual property, I am disgusted at how much you've copied my husband.”
“You're a laughing stock. It's cheesy, it's disgusting. I personally found it absolutely artistically atrocious. I am embarrassed to be sitting here in your presence even having to dignify you with an answer of my opinion.”
Her husband added to the attack, comparing the contestant to Psycho character, Norman Bates.
“It’s just a little bit creepy, and I feel like you’re going to stitch someone’s skin to your face and then kill everybody in the audience.”
Blatt came to Irvine’s defence telling him to ignore the comments and that he looked “better” than Natalia’s husband.
TV3 last night released a comment on their Facebook page saying the company “does not condone bullying”. Hundreds of replies from fans challenged the company to stand by its words.
The Mental Health Foundation of New Zealand released a statement on Facebook supporting the decision to sack Kills and Moon, saying their comments “glorified bullying and demeaning behaviour.”
They added that while they were pleased to see New Zealanders stand-up against bullying, they don’t “support or endorse anyone bullying or saying cruel things” back to the husband and wife duo.
Moon was embroiled in another controversy last week when he allegedly called a mother a “c**t” in an Auckland bakery. The woman, Tracey Neal-Gailer, thinks the X Factor judge was accusing her of taking his parking spot.
TV3 apologised on Moon’s behalf, but he later said he was not sorry and accused the woman of lying.
Producers of this season of X Factor also faced controversy for glossing over the personal history of contestant Shae Brider, who spent several years in prison after being convicted of manslaughter.
According to Throng.co.nz the live shows, which started last night, did not deliver the bump in ratings TV3 expected. “For the third consecutive week, the Sunday night average audience has only just scraped past the 250,000 mark.”
After the Brider controversy earlier this month, X Factor NZ suffered a drop in ratings of more than 100,000 viewers.