New Zealand PM sorry for pulling waitress’ hair
New Zealand Prime Minister John Key publicly apologised on Wednesday (April 22) to a waitress for repeatedly pulling her ponytail on visits to her cafe.
Mr Key said he now realised his behaviour had been inappropriate but insisted he had merely been "horsing around", not acting maliciously.
"It was all in the context of a bit of banter that was going on," the 53-year-old told TVNZ.
He said he apologised and gave the woman two bottles of wine when he realised she had taken offence.
'Leave the poor girl alone'
The unnamed waitress recounted her story in an anonymous column on thedailyblog.co.nz, saying Mr Key's actions reduced her to tears.
She said Mr Key persisted in tugging her hair on at least half a dozen separate occasions, even though she had clearly signalled her displeasure and once warned his security detail she would punch him if he continued.
At one point, Mr Key’s wife Bronagh told him to "leave the poor girl alone", the woman wrote.
"He was like the schoolyard bully tugging on the little girls’ hair trying to get a reaction, experiencing that feeling of power."
The waitress said Mr Key eventually got the message and stopped tormenting her in late March, telling her he had not realised how upset she was at his behaviour, which lasted for several months.
"Really?! That was almost more offensive than the harassment itself," she wrote.
When asked if he had acted appropriately, Mr Key said he had visited the cafe for years and had a fun relationship with staff, including practical jokes.
"It’s a very warm, friendly relationship. In that context you’d say yes, but if you look at it now, no," he said.
The National Women’s Council said it was difficult for a female cafe worker to stand up to the prime minister and that Mr Key had "crossed the line" with his unwanted touching.
Opposition party co-leader Metiria Turei described Mr Key’s behaviour as "weird", saying it was disrespectful towards the woman and her job.
"New Zealanders know you can’t walk into a cafe and start tugging on someone’s hair, especially if they’ve told you they don’t like it," she told reporters.
"John Key should be held to the same standards as the rest of us."