Jacinda Ardern has joked that she “stands by” an insult directed at a rival politician in New Zealand’s parliament, despite issuing a formal apology.
The New Zealand prime minister on Wednesday said she stood by her statements, including “insults and apologies”, in a marked but light-hearted defence of a crude remark that had put her in a spot on Tuesday.
Opposition libertarian Act party leader David Seymour had bombarded her with questions, including asking for an “example of her making a mistake, apologising for it properly, and fixing it”.
Ms Ardern stood up to defend her government’s record, but after giving her answer she was caught on a hot mic saying, “he’s such an arrogant pr***”.
The prime minister apologised to Mr Seymour through text, after he was asked by reporters about the comment.
“I’m absolutely shocked and astonished at her use of language,” Mr Seymour told the Associated Press.
“It’s very out of character for Jacinda, and I’ve personally known her for 11 years.”
“And she couldn’t give a single example of when she’s admitted she’s wrong and apologised,” he added.
“Jacinda Ardern text me (sic) and said, ‘I apologise. It’s not something I should have said.’ And she said, ‘As my mum would say, if you don’t have anything nice to say don’t say it at all.’ I agree with the sentiment, and it’s all good.”
He said that he had not initially heard Ms Ardern’s remark but after being contacted by reporters for comment, he raised a point of order asking the prime minister to apologise.
The comment had been recorded in New Zealand’s official report of debates in parliament, known as the Hansard.
But on Wednesday, the prime minister apologised again, this time in parliament. The comments prompted another party leader to mock Mr Seymour leading to eruption of laughter.
“I’m aware that comments I made in the House yesterday in regards to the leader of the Act Party were recorded on the Hansard. On that basis, I wish to formally, in this House, withdraw and apologise for those comments, which I won’t repeat,” she said.
After Ms Ardern’s official apology, centre-right New Zealand National Party leader Christopher Luxon asked the prime minister during question time: “Does she stand by all of her government’s statements and actions?”
“Yes Mr Speaker, insults and apologies,” Ms Ardern responded, to a smattering of laughter.
Soon after, the parliament speaker told Māori Party leader Rawiri Waititi to ask his question.
“My question is to the prime minister. Does she stand by all her government’s statements – even though yesterday’s one was a little bit true – and policies?” Mr Waititi stood up and asked, leading to loud laughter.
Mr Seymour, who was sitting right next to the Māori Party leader, did not seem amused.
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