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. Tom

    Actually, I just cracked up and find the joke very funny.

    May 13, 2010 at 11:51 am | Report abuse |
  2. Justin Case

    Fuyuko – I agree with your statement.

    People DO need to develop thicker skins. Cuz it will make em less tender.

    Cannibals only like tender tidbits.

    Important safety tip everyone: develop thicker skin... before traveling to Maori.

    May 13, 2010 at 11:52 am | Report abuse |
  3. kent

    4 out of 5 Cannibals agree
    vegetarians taste better

    May 13, 2010 at 11:53 am | Report abuse |
  4. John

    I work with a lady who is a Maori from New Zealand. She is always joking about having us over for dinner.

    May 13, 2010 at 11:55 am | Report abuse |
  5. me

    "Minority whiners" aside. Don't you think after you've just refused to honor part of treaty settlement (which is pretty @#%@%^ up in itself) you should not be such an @#%@%#!?! Not to mention if you know all the other history on the Maori. I do have to say, they seem to have been treated slightly better than American Indians were but –
    I mean really – Mr. Keys and his ilk are illegal immigrants to the Maori. lol.

    May 13, 2010 at 11:56 am | Report abuse |
  6. To NoMercy

    NoMercy: "Minority whiners are the same all over the world."

    Do you feel the same way about the white farmers in South Africa?

    May 13, 2010 at 11:57 am | Report abuse |
  7. Meat Balls

    Self-deprecating? Is this idiot saying that he makes fun of himself the cannibal? Someone needs to give him a clown costume and set him loose.

    May 13, 2010 at 11:59 am | Report abuse |
  8. chuckp

    good god people – lighten up! they DID practice cannabalism, so they must take the jokes that come their way! why are we so sensitive to the feelings of a formerly cannabalistic race of people. btw, they also decapitated their dead relatives and placed the heads (tattooed to the bone) around the house to honor the spirits.

    May 13, 2010 at 12:02 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Siara Delyn

    Are the Tuhoe cannibals?

    May 13, 2010 at 12:03 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Jd

    @Steve – We (Maori) have in the past been cannibals. Don't assert that which you don't actually know.

    May 13, 2010 at 12:03 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Tom

    Why did the cannibal live on his own? He was fed up with other people.

    May 13, 2010 at 12:09 pm | Report abuse |
  12. me

    @Joanna That's funny, when I look it up, it says 80% do work. While their unemployment rate is slightly more than double the national population rate – it is still obvious that you pulled numbers out of your @!#.... maybe you should remedy that. Facts are your friend.

    May 13, 2010 at 12:09 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Jurre

    Steve #7

    Back to the history class or we'll send you to New Zealand. Maori were cannibals and they loved meat named Steve. Since it's strongly believed they're descended from the Taiwanese, they probably liked meat named Boots, too!

    May 13, 2010 at 12:10 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Olaf BIg

    Good sense of humor includes some tolerance.It would be a boring world to live in if we refrain from making jokes just because we are afraid to offend somebody. I am russian and I don't get offended every time somebody makes a joke about russians guzzling vodka and stumbling outside to sleep it off in a snow bank.

    May 13, 2010 at 12:15 pm | Report abuse |
  15. kent

    whats the difference between John Key and a container of yogurt

    there is active culture in yogurt!

    May 13, 2010 at 12:16 pm | Report abuse |
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