Husband-and-wife duo Natalia Kills and Willy Moon sacked by MediaWorks for ‘destructive tirade’ against Joe Irvine, 25
Two judges on New Zealand’s X Factor have been fired for “bullying” a contestant live on air after a diatribe that makes Simon Cowell look encouraging.
Husband-and-wife duo Natalia Kills and Willy Moon were sacked by MediaWorks, the owner-operator of TV3, the network that airs X Factor New Zealand, for their “destructive tirade” on Sunday evening.
Kills criticised a 25-year-old contestant, Joe Irvine, on Sunday’s show for allegedly stealing her husband’s look “from the hair to the suit”. She called him “disgusting” and “creepy” and asked: “Do you not have any value or respect for originality?”
Despite the obvious discomfort of their fellow judges and booing from the audience, Moon joined in, likening Irvine to “Norman Bates dressing up in his mother’s clothing” before suggesting he might murder the crowd.
In a statement announcing the pair’s sacking on Monday, MediaWorks’ chief executive, Mark Weldon, said Kills’ and Moon’s comments 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.”
On Sunday night, TV3 published a statement to Facebook explaining that live television could be “unpredictable”.
“TV3 does not condone bullying and are currently on-site with Joe who is doing well,” it read.
A fellow X Factor New Zealand judge, Mel Blatt, formerly of the British girl group All Saints, criticised Kills for her comments on air, and later called her a “twat” on Instagram.
melanie blatt ✔ @melblatt
Ive tried to keep my cool and stay professional but really @nataliakills ? Sorry love , you’re a twat https://instagram.com/p/0Q-AlQqlZU/
9:29 AM – 16 Mar 2015
Kills – real name Natalia Noemi Cappuccini-Sinclair – is an English singer best known for her 2013 single Saturday Night. New Zealand musician Moon came to prominence when his song Yeah Yeah appeared on an iPod commercial. The pair married in 2014.
Kills’ and Moon’s behaviour caused outrage among New Zealand Twitter users, with All Black player Israel Dagg, television newsreader Hilary Barry, radio host Dom Harvey and former X-Factor contestants Jackie Thomas and Benny Tipene among those expressing their disapproval.
McDonald’s and mobile network 2degrees, sponsors of the show, both released statements distancing themselves from Kills, and a Change.org petition calling for her to be fired attracted more than 77,500 submissions in less than 24 hours.
Before Kills and Moon were sacked, there was speculation that the controversy was manufactured to boost the competition’s lacklustre ratings.
Though less than two months under way, the current X Factor New Zealand series was already under scrutiny from Fremantle Media and Simon Cowell’s company Syco Entertainment, which own the franchise, after a convicted killer appeared on an earlier episode. Cowell said it was a “very poor editorial decision”.
Kills and Moon have not yet issued a statement, although they have been active online, with Kills tagging herself and Moon in a picture of Woody Harrelson and Juliette Lewis in the 1994 film Natural Born Killers.
Asked if firing Moon and Kills was the right decision, Duncan Greive, editor of the New Zealand TV website The Spinoff, told Guardian Australia the decision was “inevitable”.
“People were rightly furious, because of the venom and callousness of those words, and the fact they were targeted at such a sweet and vulnerable guy. Once a story like that gets rolling it must end in a firing – the X Factor brand is too big, and the sponsors too fearful.”
Greive added: “From a pure entertainment perspective we lost something beautiful in Natalia Kills and Willy Moon. They were deeply strange and often unpleasant, but never less than dynamite television. I feel like that’s extremely unlikely to be true of whoever they rope in to replace them.”
Melanie Blatt will appear with the fourth judge, Stan Walker, on Monday evening; two new judges are set to be announced before the next show on Sunday.