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. Meat Balls

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

    I dunno about hearts, but I would stay away from eating brain...

    May 13, 2010 at 1:05 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Rofe

    "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."

    You are absolutely right. He is an idiot, in the original meaning of the Greek word. Non-functional. I would say he is a moron, but that would be giving him far to much intellectual and moral credit. If this is diplomacy, then heaven help N.Z.

    May 13, 2010 at 1:06 pm | Report abuse |
  3. you guys.

    Remember, if you are high ranking, you aren't allowed to have any sense of humor. The less human you are, the more qualified of a leader you are. Clearly.

    May 13, 2010 at 1:07 pm | Report abuse |
  4. USgi2010

    No, these days it's only fashionable, making it socially acceptable, to crack jokes about white people. To tell a joke about anyone else is to risk being labeled a racist or an elitest. Eventually minorities in America will be happy when they all own white slaves and white men are hanging from trees in Mississippi. Until that day comes every failure or imperfection that occurs in the world is the fault of white people. For my part, I'm not wealthy, have never owned or tortured another human being but I am white, so you can kiss my white @#&. By the way, the cannibal joke was funny:)

    May 13, 2010 at 1:09 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Shelly

    He said that he would have made an unattractive main course. That's what he meant by "self-deprecating." It may not have been the controversial part, but it's there, nonetheless.

    May 13, 2010 at 1:11 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Meat Balls

    >>but I am white, so you can kiss my white @#&.

    Careful what you wish for: I heard they start with kissing...

    May 13, 2010 at 1:12 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Mike

    What an insensitive dolt this prime minister is. To say such a thing not once, but twice, and then give a half-hearted "apology." What rude remarks. Idiot.

    May 13, 2010 at 1:12 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Mike

    disregard that, I know nothing

    May 13, 2010 at 1:14 pm | Report abuse |
  9. JayP

    People need to develop thicker skins...

    so cannibals like the Tuhoe can't eat you HAHAHAHAAHAHA


    May 13, 2010 at 1:14 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Meat Balls

    >>He said that he would have made an unattractive main course. That's what he meant by "self-deprecating." It may not have been the controversial part, but it's there, nonetheless.

    So, he would be an unattractive main course because he insults them? Two times in a row? Nice try at self-defense. He should try dunking himself in manure or something. Oh wait ... never mind.

    May 13, 2010 at 1:16 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Red-oalf

    >>whats the difference between John Key and a container of yogurt there is active culture in yogurt!

    Now, that is funny!

    May 13, 2010 at 1:19 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Jason

    The quality of the writing on CNN has degenerated to an embarrassing level. To be a journalist, should it not be required that one has a healthy grasp of the language one chooses to write in? That doesn't seem to be the case with CNN. Not to mention the tabloid tactics CNN has adopted in the last year. I used to have great respect for CNN as a news source.

    May 13, 2010 at 1:21 pm | Report abuse |
  13. CSh

    Actually, I didn't see the joke as having anything to do with cannibals. That's like saying, "These guys are so mad at me, they're ready to bite my head off!" I wonder what they would make of, "The Maoris will have kittens when this gets out!"

    May 13, 2010 at 1:22 pm | Report abuse |
  14. POD

    "By 1872 the chiefs of a governing council made a historic decision to protect themselves from the land-hungry Pakeha. They closed access to their lands. Signposts went up warning strangers, especially Pakeha, not to enter. On the northern confiscation line, one chief, Eru Tamaikoha, put up signs warning "Trespassers will be eaten".

    May 13, 2010 at 1:22 pm | Report abuse |
  15. buster

    Here is an interesting issue one can see on a world wide scale. How we hold our leaders, politicians and elected officials to this ridicules level of correctness... its just farcical. We are so easily offended when " they " make remarks that are off the cuff and real, not run through the socially offensive political rinse cycle so as not to
    say ANYTHING interesting or humorous or show any personality... therefore never offending us or saying/doing anything interesting. Lighten up a little.... the world is serious enough.

    May 13, 2010 at 1:22 pm | Report abuse |
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