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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soundoff (282 Responses)

    We need more people like this! Politicians are boring, this guy seems like he has a sense of humor. It was just a joke get over it.

    May 13, 2010 at 9:27 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Cliff

    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.

    Posted by: NotWhite

    You really need to thank the "white folks" for providing food, shelter and medical care for you and your "bros" over the past 50 years!

    May 13, 2010 at 10:09 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Jonathan

    The Tuhoe are just mad because they know they really did used to practice cannibalism.

    May 13, 2010 at 10:11 pm | Report abuse |
  4. ;)

    whew, no toothpaste either

    May 13, 2010 at 10:27 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Troy

    Okay, a joke is a joke however I have to say that I am not impressed by those who are saying that Tuhoe should just get over it, and that it is based in truth.
    May I suggest then that you all go to New York and joke about Sept 11, or the Twin Towers and see what reaction you would get.
    Perhaps you could go up to someone from the Armed Forces and joke about Afghanistan hmm I bet they would laugh!
    Or perhaps talk to a veteran and joke about Vietnam... see what sort of reaction you would get.
    Just because something is a fact that doesnt mean that it should be used as a joke.
    Jokes are supposed to be funny not hurtful.

    Steve (239) I would like to know where you got your information about Maori using body limbs as furniture and eating women and children during festivals... give me your reference source and I shall evaluate it... although if you say it is Wikipedia then I am afraid I will have to ignore any comments or claims of fact from you. As for the Germans choosing to be Nazi or not, there is a difference between being a part of a political movement (which you do have a choice in) and being an indigenous person... namely choice. as far as I know no one can choose their ancestory.

    May 13, 2010 at 10:29 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Renee

    I'm from little old NZ and I smiled upon hearing this story. I like that we have a PM with a little bit of personality. The thing is, everyone in NZ knows and accepts that cannabalism happened and it's not such a taboo subject, and yes, jokes between the NZ people are made on the subject. We do have a different sense of humour and we like to poke fun at ourselves! Key's really wouldn't have meant to upset when he made this joke and he will be kicking himself now, that's for sure.

    May 13, 2010 at 11:44 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Jade

    Wow. Joanna "from Canada" is SOOOO not representative of the rest of us Canadians. I won't even grace her with a response to her absolute NON-facts. However, as a socioligist and a professional economist residing in British Columbia, her "stats" are completely erroneous. Perhaps I shouldn't have used the word "erroneous" because I find it highly unlikeky that someone like this would even comprehend any such word. Simply put, the "Joannas" of the world are an absolute disgrace to the rest of us. Please, please, please don't believe a word of what this Canadian-equivalent-to-White-Trash has to say. It is misinformed, racist and a complete embarrassment to the civilized Canadians. Oh, and by the way, in case twits like Joanna care, I'm as white as they come: immigated from the UK.

    May 14, 2010 at 12:47 am | Report abuse |
  8. Jade

    Yeah, oops... I guess us "immigants" are too stupid to notice typos before we post our posts.

    May 14, 2010 at 12:48 am | Report abuse |
  9. Eugene Frank MD

    As to acceptable humor: What is the difference between a Jewish mother and a vulture? The vulture waits until you are dead to eat your heart out.

    The communion ritual of of drinking the blood and eating the flesh of Christ is based on atavistic rituals of eating your conquered enemies to ingest their strength, acknowledged by the church as the source of one's character. No one seems to mind, or acknowledge, the source of the ritual. Recent news indicates that he ritual of eating attractive young men is still in vogue in the church as a source of strength, if not in Gourmet.

    The creation of the term cannibalism is palaver: an attempt by colonial powers to distinguish their murderous, inhuman destruction of native life as providing salvation to the heathens.

    "Tho' I've belted you and flayed you, By the livin' Gawd that made you, You're a better man than I am, Gunga Din!" A final acknowledgement of he who is of superior character.

    May 14, 2010 at 2:05 am | Report abuse |
  10. Alen006

    Thats crazy, I just found this other hilarious site that has instead “Thats What She Said” Stories and Jokes from real people. They are super funny just google twss moments and they should pop up first result.

    May 14, 2010 at 2:39 am | Report abuse |
  11. Sika

    Ive eaten a few maoris in my time and they all tasted like fish!

    May 14, 2010 at 2:46 am | Report abuse |
  12. Hair Band

    "They ATE the native new zealanders! I wish I was kidding."

    Sarah, I wish you were kiding as well. Sadly, I think your display of anencephalic ignorance is wholely sincere.

    May 14, 2010 at 3:04 am | Report abuse |
  13. Kiwi

    Bad timing more than anything ..

    It would be good if the media machine posted more positive news

    May 14, 2010 at 5:15 am | Report abuse |
  14. kiwiguy

    The Maori people killed and ate the moriori people to extinction!! Ibet they tasted like chicken.

    May 14, 2010 at 6:20 am | Report abuse |
  15. Jaye Chevalier-Walker

    This is ridiculous. It was just a joke! Tuhoe Need to lighten up! I understood it. He means they were so angry at him for refusing to hand over the National Park, that they would "eat him alive" – and that HE wouldn't be so attractive (that's the self-depreciating part).
    Seriously.Pathetic. Poor Guy.

    May 14, 2010 at 6:38 am | Report abuse |
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