Heated debate in Mad Butcher 'racism' row
A war of words between Sir Peter 'the Mad Butcher' Leitch and Maori woman Lara Bridger continues to simmer, as both stand by their version of events.
The dispute started on Tuesday at a wine tasting on Waiheke Island, when Waiheke Island local Lara Bridger claimed Leitch told her "Waiheke is a white man's island" and she should not be there.
Leitch responded with a statement saying Bridger had "misinterpreted some light-hearted banter".
"I was joking with her group about not drinking too much because there were lots of police on the island," he said.
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"She said that she was tangata whenua and could do what she liked, and I responded with a joke about it being a white man's island also. This was not a serious comment and was only ever intended to be light-hearted banter."
He said he apologised unreservedly after Bridger informed him she was offended.
"There is no way I can ever be accused of being racist."
Leitch has declined all media interviews, but a spokeswoman said on Wednesday morning that he disputed parts of Bridger's story.
After the exchange, Bridger claimed Leitch began offering her money, wine, and to pay for her family's dinner.
He had not offered to give her money or buy wine, the spokeswoman said.
Leitch was "very upset and hurt" by the accusations against him and had given his account and would not comment any further, she said.
Bridger went on Facebook on Wednesday morning to "set the record straight".
"I did not say 'I could do what I like'. He came at us with the whole you're not a local in which I responded 'yeah I'm tangata whenua born here mate 23 years ago' in which he responded 'well its a white mans island now, you need to acknowledge that'.
"Im not acknowledging that sorry this place is for everyone. And when your standing over someone pointing at them in the face with a stern tone I didn't take it as light banter (sic)."
Bridger has yet to respond to requests for comment.
The furore has polarised public opinion, with many weighing in to throw their support behind the parties.
Maori Party co-leader Te Ururoa Flavell said he respected Leitch for the work he has done benefiting Maori and Pacific Island communities.
But he said he also respected Bridger for speaking out on what she believed was offensive.
"What this incident highlights is that despite there being no intention to cause offence, it has," he said.
"The lesson here is no matter how you dress it up, making comments directed at someone else because of their ethnicity is racist and you'll be called on it.
"For that, we respect the actions of the young woman and her whanau, who have made their point and who now wish to move on."
Maori comedian Mike King took to Twitter to voice his support for Leitch.
"Never ever can you call Sir Peter Leitch a racist," he wrote.
Boxer Dave Letele, aka 'Brown Buttabean', has also come out in support of Leitch.
"He's always been good to me and has supported a lot of south Auckland Polynesian and Maori athletes and league clubs since I was a young in (sic)," he wrote on Instagram.
As i said last night on Facebook @sirmadbutcher has done a lot for me and others . I've been busy organising wedding and I've missed all this mad butcher stuff. All I will say is he's always been good to me and has supported a lot of south Auckland Polynesian and Maori athletes and league clubs since I was a young in . These are not the actions of a racists person . I might piss some people off but that's how I feel . I train his grand son and am friends with his daughter and son in law . They have even let us use their house as part of our wedding . I'll leave you all with a couple of verses to reflect on - Proverbs 10:12English Standard Version (ESV) 12 Hatred stirs up strife, but love covers all offenses. Romans 3:23 23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, Stay safe team and God bless #teambuttabean
Others were on the fence, saying they were unclear of the context or nature of exactly what was said.
I still don't have an opinion on the mad butcher incident. It's a tough one to me because I deal with racial remarks/banter a lot.— Vannah (@vannahtafaulevy) January 3, 2017
A spokeswoman for the Human Rights Commission said it was seeking more information into the matter.
"We encourage all parties involved to keep talking to help resolve this issue," she said.
The initial Facebook video shared by Bridger attracted more than 80,000 views and had more than 5000 likes before she removed it from her page.
She said she had deleted the video because she had made her point and there were some "overboard" racist comments being posted.