The former prime minister has appeared in an ad on a US-based talent website, prompting one fringe media outlet to say she’s riding a ‘great new gravy train’. But Jacinda Ardern says it’s not real.
A website claiming to be a US-based talent agency has listed former prime minister Jacinda Ardern as one of its clients, suggesting she has a new career lined up on the speakers circuit once she formally leaves parliament at the end of this week.
The advert has prompted one fringe media outlet in New Zealand to suggest that Ardern is hiding her new job from the public.
The page for Ardern appeared on “speakerbookingagency.com” some time after her valedictory address in parliament last Wednesday, advising that the former prime minister could be booked for speaking engagements around the world.
While no price was listed, prospective bookers were asked to get in touch with the website for further information. Ardern was listed under the categories of “leadership speakers”, “government and political officials”, “political commentators” and “foreign policy speakers”. The former prime minister was said to be able to travel from New Zealand to wherever an event was being held.
The talent website also includes other world leaders Narendra Modi and Tony Blair, along with an unusual assortment of entertainment figures like Lady Gaga, Beyonce and the famously reclusive Kate Bush.
Ardern, who will formally leave parliament at the end of the week, recently announced she would be taking up two positions – neither of which include being a speaker for hire. Both roles, special envoy for the Christchurch Call and a position on the board of Prince William’s climate charity, are unpaid.
Ardern’s office told The Spinoff that the listing is fake – and Ardern herself had no idea it existed. “Ms Ardern was not aware of this website page before now, and the listing is certainly not authorised by her,” a government spokesperson said.
Despite this, Sean Plunket’s media outlet The Platform has pushed the idea that Ardern has been hiding her new speaking engagement from the public. A post on The Platform’s Facebook yesterday teased “the new job Ardern doesn’t want you to know about” and said that Plunket would be revealing the “untold truth” on Tuesday morning. “A truth legacy media kept secret or didn’t want to ask about,” the post continued. The claims were shared by users on Twitter.
Plunket later tweeted: “nice work if you can get it” with a screenshot of the fake Ardern listing.
It took just a few minutes for The Spinoff to work out the listing wasn’t all it seemed. On searching the talent agency on Google, a recent example of an outgoing world leader being incorrectly listed as a speaker appears. In February this year, Speaker Booking Agency made headlines in the UK after a fake listing for Scotland’s former first minister Nicola Sturgeon appeared, mistakingly listing her as an athlete. “It’s fake – this is the first I’ve seen of it,” a source close to Sturgeon told the Scotland Herald.
Then there’s the agency’s social media presence. On Twitter, it is described as “one of America’s top speakers bureaus” but has just 42 followers.
On his breakfast show this morning, Plunket continued to push the idea that Ardern had been hiding this new role. “How convenient that the day after her valedictory in parliament, Jacinda Ardern pops up as a speaker for hire – a mouth for hire – with Speaker Booking Agency in the United States,” Plunket told his listeners.
“Why weren’t you a little bit more transparent in telling us about the great new gravy train you are now riding for the rest of your life?”
Despite no price being listed to book Ardern, Plunket estimated it would cost $NZ400,000 for a speech – a claim that was then shared on The Platform’s Twitter account.
Plunket said he was happy for Ardern to be making money as a speaker – but: “I’m just amazed that given since she is so open and transparent she wasn’t excited to tell John Campbell and whatever other gushers interviewed her ‘oh I’m really excited to tell you I’m going to cream it for the rest of my life, I’m on the international speaking circuit’.”
A clip of Plunket’s segment from this morning was later shared to Twitter with the caption “Sean Plunket exposes the new job of Jacinda Ardern”.
While this particular example has no factual basis, it wouldn’t be unprecedented for Ardern to find work as a paid speaker after leaving office. It was reported in 2017 that former prime minister John Key had signed with New York-based Harry Walker Agency alongside former US president Bill Clinton. Others on the speaker circuit include ex-Australian leader Scott Morrison and former UK prime minister Tony Blair. Barack Obama was famously lured to New Zealand in 2018 for an invite-only speech at a cost to the taxpayer of over $30,000.
Since The Spinoff approached both Ardern and Speaker Booking Agency for comment, the page listing Ardern as a client has been removed.
Update: Since publication, Plunket has removed references to the fake Ardern ad from his and The Platform’s social media. He has encouraged his followers to delete any mentions of it as well.