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. BOB

    NoMercy, your lack of empathy means you shouldn't be calling anyone sick.

    May 13, 2010 at 1:28 pm | Report abuse |
  2. moik

    canabolism is more civilized than having the death penality and not eating your kill. It would make war harder to take if we had to eat what we kill.

    May 13, 2010 at 1:29 pm | Report abuse |
  3. NetReacher

    If a vegetarian is one who eats vegetables......what's a humanitarian?

    May 13, 2010 at 1:30 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Kate

    No, USgi2010, the rule is and always has been, you are allowed to make jokes about *yourself* and the group you identify yourself with.

    You are also allowed to joke about groups or people who have more or equal power to you, but you are not allowed to joke about those with less. It's not sporting.

    If you're a white male, sorry, you can only joke about white males because, alas, white males are still on top of the pile. If you want to make jokes about other groups, you're going to have to give some of your power to them.

    You can't have everything.

    May 13, 2010 at 1:31 pm | Report abuse |
  5. kent

    when people put themselves in the public eye because they choose too, they should be aware of what they are saying and if it might be offensive. Now I am the last person to be purely PC. I think in many cases it has gone to far. There is a simple rule to follow to assure things like this do not happen.
    start brain first then put your mouth in drive. not the other way around

    May 13, 2010 at 1:32 pm | Report abuse |
  6. BOB

    michrants, are you white trash? That ilk seems to be super abundant.

    May 13, 2010 at 1:33 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Cyrus Howell

    Apparently New Zealand voters have elected a mentally handicapped Prime Minister.

    What is the matter with native people anyway? Can't they take a joke?

    May 13, 2010 at 1:40 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Cannibal

    Well, I for one, am offended by the misuse of my name.

    May 13, 2010 at 1:44 pm | Report abuse |
  9. morris

    he would taste like sports bar chicken 😉

    anyways, does the tribe or did the tribe eat ppl?

    If they used to then nothing wrong with his comment.

    May 13, 2010 at 1:45 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Rollie

    George Bushism is a political disease not limited to the US. Have these people no sense of decorum and respect?

    May 13, 2010 at 1:46 pm | Report abuse |
  11. AccidentalAmerican

    I think people need to realize that this kind of comment in a formal setting is unacceptable. It is different if it was amongst friends having a beer. This PM doesn't understand his function and should be booted out. With the history of colonialism still causing pain today, we really need better men than this clown.

    May 13, 2010 at 1:46 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Cyrus Howell

    From all the comments here I can now understand why New Zealanders are considered unusual by the rest of the world.

    May 13, 2010 at 1:47 pm | Report abuse |
  13. morris

    Joanna I'm from Canada too.

    And your comments about natives is racist. BLAME the GOVERNMENT not natives.

    May 13, 2010 at 1:47 pm | Report abuse |
  14. StalinIncognito

    Someone made a joke now we should all get upset 🙁

    May 13, 2010 at 1:47 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Meat Balls

    >>It is different if it was amongst friends having a beer.

    You betcha! Who does not eat white meat with beer?

    May 13, 2010 at 1:49 pm | Report abuse |
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