A brief history of Breakfast's biggest scandals

Spy News,
Publish Date
Thursday, 9 August 2018, 8:56PM
Paul Henry and Pippa Wetzell. Photo / Supplied
Paul Henry and Pippa Wetzell. Photo / Supplied

Tomorrow officially marks 21 years of TVNZ's Breakfast programme and, much like any 21-year-old, the show has said and done some things they're not so proud of over the years.

Most of the thousands of Breakfast episodes that have aired since 1997 have run without incident, but there have been a handful of times when the show was enveloped in controversy.

We look back at five of those instances.

Paul Henry resigns after international incident

Breakfast's current lineup would have to do something pretty spectacular to compete with former presenter Paul Henry when it comes to leaving the show in strife.

Known for making outrageous remarks during his tenure on the Breakfast couch, Henry came under fire in 2010 when he questioned whether New Zealand-born Governor-General Sir Anand Satyanand was in fact a New Zealander. He also mocked Delhi Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit's name during a show.

Henry's comments sparked an international incident, which saw New Zealand's High Commissioner handed a formal protest at the Indian Foreign Ministry in New Delhi.

As protests about Henry and what he’d said grew – and threatened TVNZ's advertising dollar – the presenter resigned from the network.

"I am astonished and dismayed that my comments have created a diplomatic incident,” Henry said in a statement at the time.

"My style is conversational and, of course, unscripted. I walk the finest of lines and accept that I have inadvertently crossed it from time to time.

"I am grateful to the many thousands of people who have offered their support to me. I hope they will understand and accept that an extraordinary convergence of circumstances has made this [resignation] necessary." 

Liz Gunn quits live on air

Of course, Henry wasn't the first Breakfast presenter to quit the show in sensational circumstances.

After a tense time presenting the show alongside Mike Hosking in 2001, Liz Gunn stunned TVNZ's executives by revealing live on air that she wasn't returning to the Breakfast couch the following year. Viewers remarked that Hosking barely reacted to the news.

A call made by the Herald to TVNZ's publicity team following Gunn's announcement revealed they were in the dark about the presenter's farewell.

An official statement was issued later that day, in which Heaton Dyer, TVNZ's head of news and current affairs at the time, said: "Liz has made the decision to put her family first, which we fully understand and appreciate."


The Ralston reshuffle

Back in 2003, Breakfast was fronted by future husband and wife, Mike Hosking and Kate Hawkesby.

But their formidable on-screen pairing was sensationally split when Bill Ralston was appointed head of news and promptly made huge changes to the Breakfast line-up and format.

Newsreader Peter Williams and weather presenter Mike Hall were dumped from the show, with Hawkesby moved to a newsreading role and Hosking left to conduct the live interviews by himself.

The new arrangement wasn't to last, with Hawkesby soon moving to the network's late news bulletin and Hosking leaving the show the following year.


Nadine and Rawdon left in the dark

According to Nadine Chalmers-Ross, the first she heard about being axed from her role presenting Breakfast in 2016 was when she read about it in the newspaper.

Chalmers-Ross and co-host Rawdon Christie learned they were being dumped from the show in July that year, but only after several stories had already made the rounds about their imminent Breakfast departure.

Chalmers-Ross later told Woman's Day that she came back from an overseas trip and saw a "frenzy of stories" about Hilary Barry and Jack Tame being lined up as the new hosts.

"I didn't know what to think. No-one was saying anything at work. It was awful," she said.

"It would have been nice not to learn that I was losing my job by reading about it in the paper."


The escapades of Matty McLean

Breakfast's current weather presenter Matty McLean has a long history with the show, having also worked as one of its roving reporter for some time - and he's managed to land himself in hot water once or twice over the years.

Most famously, a baby-faced McLean got a stern warning from a police officer live on air eight years ago after jumping the fence at Premier House while covering a story for the show.

When then-presenter Paul Henry told McLean to "jump", he did, with both men dissolving in giggles at the stunt.

An unimpressed police officer soon wiped the grin off McLean’'s face, however, with the reporter seen apologising for the brief security breach, before turning to camera to wail: "Paul Henry, you're going to get me arrested!"




More recently, a very tired McLean made international headlines last year when he managed to accidentally drop the 'c-word' during a weather report - twice.

"Let's check out what's happening around your c***, the weather with your c*** ... the weather with your country? The country with your weather,” he stammered.

McLean blamed the slip of the tongue on a big night at an Adele concert the night before.

"I'm sorry, it was a long night. I was home late."