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.”

Post by:
Filed under: New Zealand
soundoff (282 Responses)
  1. carl botha

    Father Cannibal and Son Cannibal, while fishing, found the most beautiful girl on a life-raft between the rocks.

    Son: Dad, can we take her home and eat her?

    Father: No, I think we take her home and eat mommy.

    May 13, 2010 at 12:33 pm | Report abuse |
  2. newsqueen123

    Hmmm...this NZ Prime Minister seems as ridiculous as the one that was a character on Flight of the Conchords. This guy needs better comedy material if he thought these cannibal jokes were funny. Perhaps Bret and Jemaine could write for him?

    May 13, 2010 at 12:42 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Roget

    Cannibal #1: "Your wife makes good soup."
    Cannibal #2: "Yes, but I'll miss her."

    May 13, 2010 at 12:44 pm | Report abuse |
  4. lance corporal

    this wasn't SELF depreciating it was disparaging of others, you'd think to be a PM you'd need to be fairly well educated, smart and know how to deal well with others, guess new zealand has it's racist neo cons too

    May 13, 2010 at 12:46 pm | Report abuse |
  5. michrants

    cry babies are everywhere – -thanks PC movement

    May 13, 2010 at 12:46 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Bob

    The Treaty is a disaster – it should never have passed, it was done so to get votes with little or no consideration for what it would actually mean as a precedent... imagine if EVERY formally assimilated people made these claims globally – Mexico on California, Spain on Mexico, Portugal on.... you get the picture yeah? The treaty turned the clock back on racism in NZ by 50 years, although thats not even an accurate description; it INTRODUCED a new and viscous racism in NZ. Sad Sad Sad.

    In the meantime, and Tribes stand-by: The idea of filing a suit for compensation in the matter of sending the Moa to extinction is being readied... Since there does not seem to be a statute on how far back these claims can go this should be very interesting.

    May 13, 2010 at 12:47 pm | Report abuse |
  7. echotrain

    What's the difference between a minority whiner and NoMercy? There isn't one! HAHAHAHAHAHA

    I was trying to think of something thoughtful to say, but my head started to hurt. So, I just went with inflammatory.

    May 13, 2010 at 12:48 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Will

    Had the comments been made while hanging with friends would be one thing, however, he's the f-ing Prime Minister of NZ and he's making these comments publicly. What is he, a f-ing idiot? He made these "jokes" while in serious talks with the Maori over land. You can only assume that he is not taking anything they say seriously. Normally, I would agree that people whine way too much, but Key is an idiot in this case.

    May 13, 2010 at 12:48 pm | Report abuse |
  9. DownUnder

    This is like the Irish getting ticked off by someone making an "Irish are drunks" joke. The Maori used to be cannibalistic and it was a joke playing off their history. Lighten up...

    May 13, 2010 at 12:53 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Cris

    Here's a news flash.....if your people or tribe were once cannibals there are going to be jokes made about you. There are two things you can do about it. Get over it or whine. Or I guess there's a third. Get the fire hot and the spit ready.

    May 13, 2010 at 12:54 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Cindy

    Perhaps nobody laughed the first time, so he thought he'd try it again?

    May 13, 2010 at 12:55 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Ned

    Way to go Key. You sure know how to win the hearts and minds of a people!

    May 13, 2010 at 12:58 pm | Report abuse |
  13. G-man

    We need more politicians with a sense of humor.

    May 13, 2010 at 1:00 pm | Report abuse |
  14. newsqueen123

    To Cris with comment 56: just because a group of people did something a long time ago, do you honestly think it's funny to bring it up. How would you feel if President Obama made jokes about whites owning slaves as if it were still happening? Something tells me you'd think it was out of touch with reality and a ridiculous statement to bring up so long after the fact. Same thing here (assuming some Maori tribes were cannibalistic a long time ago).

    May 13, 2010 at 1:04 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Heavy Weapons Guy

    Entire country, is BABIES

    May 13, 2010 at 1:04 pm | Report abuse |
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19