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. Shane. Tampa, FL

    Get over it! It was a joke.

    May 13, 2010 at 12:17 pm | Report abuse |
  2. me

    @Olaf but you might get offended if it was just after someone told you they wouldn't honor a treaty regarding land you once were free to use. Hahaha those drunken vodka swilling Russians! Let them pass out on a snow bank elsewhere.

    May 13, 2010 at 12:18 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Barry in Gulf Breeze

    It should be automatic that one in the public spotlight would have learned tact. But, I guess, not in all cases. The remarks were inappropriate.

    May 13, 2010 at 12:20 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Tim

    I don't think John Key has to worry about cannibals eating him. They don't like politicians, they're so full of crap it takes all day just to clean em.

    May 13, 2010 at 12:20 pm | Report abuse |
  5. rick

    What is the economic drain on the New Zealand tax payers to support the native population. If the whites wough just let the natives live like they did before the whiles came, fine, but the natives always expect the whites to support them, in a white style! Go Native means just that! Go back to the way you were! When food was scarce, hay, no super market. Just the people down the way!

    May 13, 2010 at 12:23 pm | Report abuse |
  6. David

    The whole world is becoming a bunch of babies, it's out of control, lighten' up people!

    May 13, 2010 at 12:23 pm | Report abuse |
  7. someone

    Did you hear about the cannibal that passed his brother in the woods?

    May 13, 2010 at 12:24 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Brian from Chicago

    Fine, I'll ask: is there or has there ever been any cannibalism practiced by the Maori?

    May 13, 2010 at 12:24 pm | Report abuse |
  9. rkc

    Ha, Ha, Ha. A place where you can joke about cannibals.....and get this, the cannibals are not amused. I can see a whole marketing campaign coming out now for GEICO insurance. Wait an minute, they already did the annoyed caveman thing. Now that's funny! Somebody pick me up off the floor! Ha, Ha Ha.

    May 13, 2010 at 12:25 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Meat Balls

    Warning: lame attempt at humor.

    What is the difference between a sleazebag and a politician? A cannibal would it a sleazebag.

    May 13, 2010 at 12:26 pm | Report abuse |
  11. me

    Super lame, since you obviously missed a word or two.

    May 13, 2010 at 12:27 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Alan

    There are alot more important things be concerned about in the world than a silly joke by John Key. Give me a break people and get over it.

    May 13, 2010 at 12:27 pm | Report abuse |
  13. reggie from LA

    Yeah, "minority whiners". I am so tired of them. Every time someone creates an unjust environment for them, they have something to say. Why don't they just take it on the chin ALL the time. That way, people won't go around "whining" about "playing the minority card again". We know the problems are never real. Minority whiners just make'm up.

    May 13, 2010 at 12:30 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Johnny

    In another time maybe he would really be the main course for those Tuhoe

    are they ashamed of their past ? well too bad

    May 13, 2010 at 12:30 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Sam

    What did the cannibal do after he dumped his girlfriend?

    Wiped his butt.

    May 13, 2010 at 12:32 pm | Report abuse |
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