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. blah

    @me you are obviously not from canada because joanna is absolutley right the indians here are lazy i know very few that work and the ones that do it isnt legal they all grow dope, in new brunswick at the reserve i live by they will not even allow nb power near the dam to do maintenence they have had a little pow wow set up there(or w/e they call it) and do not leave until they run out of alcohol or need to run up to simons to get some pot....if 80% of them have jobs why do i only see a handful actually working these jobs around town and in a small town of 2000-3000 ppl im sure we should see them but w/e stats you came up with (most likely wikipedia) are obviously correct cause you know EVERYTHING YOU READ ON THE INTERNET IS TRUE

    May 13, 2010 at 2:18 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Santosangre

    Now, are you people actually telling me that you don't look around at the other passengers on the plane and pick out who you would eat...just in case?

    May 13, 2010 at 2:20 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Meat Balls

    Q: Do cannibals consider red necks to be white meat?

    May 13, 2010 at 2:23 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Lisa

    "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 2:28 pm | Report abuse |
  5. meko

    yummy let's eat!

    May 13, 2010 at 2:29 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Joe

    Would it be hard for the reporter to check if they were cannibalistic at one time? If they were/are then it isn't offensive at all. It might be a touchy subject, and rude to bring it up though.

    May 13, 2010 at 2:29 pm | Report abuse |
  7. POD

    Because something offends you, or insults you or hurts your feelings doesn't necessarily make it a lie

    May 13, 2010 at 2:32 pm | Report abuse |
  8. cgsailor

    Tempest in a teapot...let's move on.

    May 13, 2010 at 2:35 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Joel Enoka

    Being an American whose grandfather was 100% Pacific Islander, I am extremely offended, not only by the comment, but by the way he and others tried to downplay that statement. Key is just another Pakeha who will never understand the ways of the Maori!

    May 13, 2010 at 2:36 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Meat Balls

    >>Tempest in a teapot...let's move on.
    But why? We have so much fun. Besides, what stops you from moving on, Key?

    May 13, 2010 at 2:38 pm | Report abuse |
  11. sssimon

    People developing thicker skins is an excellent idea! Keeps the juices in and makes the meat more tender and tasty.

    May 13, 2010 at 2:39 pm | Report abuse |
  12. LKJ

    That "joke" may have brought a laugh around the dining room table, but it was a very inappropriate comment for a leader.

    May 13, 2010 at 2:41 pm | Report abuse |
  13. jds

    So there's two cannibals eating a clown. One says to the other, "This taste funny to you?"


    May 13, 2010 at 2:42 pm | Report abuse |
  14. sssimon

    "So, it is ok to say in a meeting with the Dutch Chamber of Commerce that I am glad I am there and not in Germany because the only chamber I would get to meet with in Germany would be a gas chamber. Ha Ha Ha."

    Good one #101

    May 13, 2010 at 2:42 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Taog

    Instead of, "but if anyone is offended, then I deeply apologise," he should have said something along the lines of, "and if anyone is offended, then lighten the eff up."

    People need to find better things to do than be offended by everything.

    May 13, 2010 at 2:46 pm | Report abuse |
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