May 13th, 2010
10:49 AM ET

New Zealand P.M. criticized for comparing tribe to cannibals

John Key made a joke at a dinner that one Maori tribe may have made him the main course.

New Zealand Prime Minister John Key was facing heavy criticism Thursday after making a cannibalistic comment about a Maori tribe for the second time in a week.

Key angered the Tuhoe, a tribe of Maori, on Monday after ruling out turning over part of a national park to the tribe as part of a treaty settlement, according to a Radio New Zealand report.

On Tuesday, during a dinner meeting with another Maori tribe, the Ngati Porou, Key said he was glad he was with them instead of with the Tuhoe, who would have made him the main course. He repeated the remark as a joke during a meeting with tourism officials in Auckland on Thursday.

"The good news is that I was having dinner with Ngati Porou as opposed to their neighbouring iwi, which is Tuhoe, in which case I would have been dinner, which wouldn't have been quite so attractive," Key was quoted as saying.

Asked later about the remark, Key said he was sure the Tuhoe would get the joke, Radio New Zealand reported. The prime minister’s office characterized the remark as flippant and light-hearted, according to a New Zealand Herald report.

Key later issued an apology. "Ah look, it was a light-hearted joke, a bit of self-deprecating humour - but if anyone is offended, then I deeply apologise," Radio New Zealand quoted him as saying.

But Tuhoe chief negotiator Tamati Kruger wasn’t laughing or very forgiving.

"I'm just astounded that the prime minister can make light of what we regard as a very, very serious situation regarding ... our future relationships with the Crown. I don't think it's becoming at all of a prime minister," Radio New Zealand quoted Kruger as saying.

Kruger went further in the New Zealand Herald report.

"It gives me the sense that whatever we say or do he will never, ever take it seriously,” Kruger said in the Herald report. "He is affirming a rigidness which is not really in the spirit of good faith negotiations. He is really going to force Tuhoe into a position that makes us look like the bad guys.”

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Filed under: New Zealand
soundoff (282 Responses)
  1. Glebe

    A deliberate vote-catching "joke' aimed at the Nats white hillbilly voter base.

    May 13, 2010 at 4:59 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Maple Leaf

    "How can you thank a man for giving you what's already yours? How then can you thank him for giving you only part of what is yours?" Malcolm X
    "Be peaceful, be courteous, obey the law, respect everyone; but if someone lays a hand on you, send him to the cemetery" JMalcom X
    John Key can make all the jokes he wants at the expense of these people but they don't have to like it and they don't have to be nice about it, he has the freedom to speak and they have the freedom to react, if he does not like the reaction he should not make the joke!!

    May 13, 2010 at 5:00 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Jason

    Uh, Steve, the whole point of the story is that they aren't cannibals, I didn't see anything in the article you could have comprehended to mean they aren't?

    May 13, 2010 at 5:01 pm | Report abuse |
  4. JasonK

    Another know it all white guy...perhaps hollywood can make another Avatar movie portraying some other white guy to be fighting for the Maoris. or perhaps the Maoris can tell him go where you came from alike we tell the illegals

    May 13, 2010 at 5:13 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Randy

    Sounds like the New Zealand version of Biden and Palin.

    May 13, 2010 at 5:14 pm | Report abuse |
  6. spellcheck

    Does CNN proofread this crap or what?

    May 13, 2010 at 5:21 pm | Report abuse |
  7. gaius

    he said they'd eat him for dinner..the point is they'd be displeased with him...he's not making reference to cannibalism. It would have been some white-guilt ridden liberal think tank that latched on to the comment and then took it to some Maori Chief to comment and gain political traction...
    and whoever compared the statement, "minority whingers" earlier to white farmers in SA ..that's so ridiculous – poor little white farmer....doesnt control 90% of their population unfair...

    May 13, 2010 at 5:21 pm | Report abuse |
  8. ricardo

    Some folks have too much free time! Lighten up, don't like it, fair enough, but don't base the next round of negotiations on your sense of self-hurt, it sucks.

    May 13, 2010 at 5:23 pm | Report abuse |
  9. newsjunkie

    Ummm...pweople taste soo good if you cook them right over an open fire! Make you wanna slap yo mamma!

    May 13, 2010 at 5:24 pm | Report abuse |
  10. PoisonDonut

    I don't think John Key needs to worry about cannibals...he's completely tasteless.

    Cannibal #1: I can't stand my ex-wife!
    Cannibal #2: Try more salt.

    May 13, 2010 at 5:28 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Mr. Wizard

    It was an inappropriate comment, no matter how you slice it. It's not about being overly-sensitive to a politician's remarks; it's about having a certain respect for the situation and realizing the context of those remarks. Key should've known better.

    I don't believe Key's remarks to be racist; however, they were completely void of any political tact or common sense. To dismiss them later as "self-deprecating" was insulting and, in a sense, even more inappropriate than making the remarks in the first place.

    (steps off soap box, returns to boring desk job)

    May 13, 2010 at 5:31 pm | Report abuse |
  12. NotWhite

    When will you ever learn that whites are the minority in this world and time will come when egotistical whites will pay for all the wrongdoings they have done to others.

    May 13, 2010 at 5:33 pm | Report abuse |
  13. postedbygeorge

    Drink, for this is my blood. Eat, for this is my body. Vampires and cannibals are a good description of Christians who have their rituals in buildings. Unless it is untrue. Then is is a lie.

    May 13, 2010 at 5:36 pm | Report abuse |
  14. John

    If Tuhoe can't see the funny side of this comment then they can't have come far in their respective educative level.
    So the Maori liked "Long White Pig" a term associated with their cannabalistic tendencies at the time of Captain Cook.
    Surely we have earned a right in this country to mirth.Just look at some of our leaders!!

    May 13, 2010 at 5:37 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Fijian

    This Key guy probably felt that he is better than the rest. Probably he should look at his ancestory and make jokes about himself first.- that might be funny perhaps

    Probably about how his ancestors were marooned on far away islands and left to die

    May 13, 2010 at 5:38 pm | Report abuse |
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