A former senior journalist says the John Key ponytail pulling scandal has turned political after conflicting reports of an interview with the woman at the centre of the incident emerged.
Allegations made by Amanda Bailey appeared on the Daily Blog yesterday outing the Prime Minster as a serial hair-puller.
She alleged today that New Zealand Herald journalist Rachel Glucina duped her into believing she was a public relations specialist during a meeting with two of her bosses, claims both her and the newspaper deny.
Bill Ralston, former head of news at TVNZ, said the situation had become political.
"There's an underlying current of politics throughout all of this and lying at the bottom of it," he told ONE News.
"She (Ms Bailey) is undoubtedly of a centre-left persuasion, no doubt about that, but then again a lot of her detractors are people of a centre-right persuasion. So once again we're seeing a news issue turned into pure politics."
He said it was becoming a "he says, she says" situation.
"The woman claims one thing, the Herald and its reporter claims another, so until such time as they give the public a full transcript of all the interviews Rachel Glucina did with this woman, the public won't really know."
Media commentator Gavin Ellis said journalists must identify who they are and who they represent before conducting an interview.
"We have two versions of the story, and I have no idea which is the more accurate of them," he said.
"Clearly there seems to be some confusion between the parties, and I simply don't know if there was any breach of an ethical standard here or not. If there was, clearly the Herald needs to redress that."
Herald has a 'meltdown'
The Herald has fought back against accusations its reporter misled Ms Bailey, with several versions of a statement posted to its website today.
The first version said Ms Glucina had approached the Hip Group, which owns the Rosie cafe in Auckland, "to seek comment from them and the waitress for a NZ Herald article".
The second removed the reference in that sentence to an article for the NZ Herald, simply saying Ms Glucina approached the group after The Daily Blog broke the story.
A third version added that Ms Glucina "wanted to follow-up The Daily Blog post" when she had urged the couple to "front-foot the issue".
A fourth change to the article removed the timestamp, re-setting the article's publish time to 5am, thus removing the "updated xx minutes ago" information.
Ms Bailey today updated her Facebook cover photo with a tweet from Conan Mckegg to Fairfax Media.
Media Commentator Russell Brown said the multiple releases were a "meltdown", a claim denied by the Herald's editor-in-chief Tim Murphy.
Herald editor Shayne Currie said in the statement he spoke to the owners of the Hip Group yesterday.
"When I spoke to the owners, they told me they had initially thought Rachel was working on a statement to go to all media, along with the photograph.
"Given the situation, I wanted to absolutely ensure they knew this interview and photograph were for the Herald. To further ease any concerns, we took the very rare step of agreeing Rachel should run the quotes past the parties before publication."