Labour MP John Tamihere says he is "sick and tired of hearing how many Jews got gassed".
The comments - branded yesterday by the Jewish Council as "sickening" and "deeply shocking for all Jews" - were made in the same interview in which Mr Tamihere referred to Cabinet minister Chris Carter as a "tosser" and "queer" and Cabinet minister Steve Maharey as "smarmy". They were released yesterday by Investigate magazine editor Ian Wishart after a spat with Mr Tamihere about the recording of the interview.
Alerted yesterday to the remark, Prime Minister Helen Clark said through a spokesman that while the government understood the pain the comment caused the Jewish community, she was certain Mr Tamihere meant no offence.
In the interview, Mr Tamihere is asked by Mr Wishart about how a society can be focused on injustices of the past.
Mr Tamihere responds: "The Weisenthal Institute is the same. I'm sick and tired of hearing how many Jews got gassed, not because I'm not revolted by it - I am - or I'm not violated by it - I am - but because I already know that.
"How many times do I have to be told and made to feel guilty?"
David Zwartz, president of the New Zealand Jewish Council, said Mr Tamihere's comment was sickening for New Zealand Jews who suffered in the Holocaust and whose families were gassed.
"It is deeply shocking for all other Jews, as was the earlier trivialising of the Holocaust by Mrs Tariana Turia. Jews have no desire to make Mr Tamihere or anyone feel guilty, we only want to have the historic truth known and understood so discrimination and oppression leading to genocide won't happen again."
Victoria University political scientist Dr Jon Johansson said he was sure Ms Clark would have been appalled by the comment. "The Holocaust aspect - there is no redemptive quality to that thought. It contributes nothing, it pollutes our discourse," he said. "The prime minister and the party are on the horns of a dilemma, where they have to weigh up principle against the practical reality of risking losing the already fragile blue-collar vote.
"It does look like the final straw - and it's tinder dry."
Mr Wishart decided to release the comments after it emerged Mr Tamihere and one other person had returned to Soljans Cafe in West Auckland to talk to staff about the recording of the interview. The Agenda programme was contacted by a "source close to Mr Tamihere" offering tape recordings of staff who apparently said there was no recording device on the table when the MP lunched with Mr Wishart.
Tony Soljan, managing director of Soljans Estate Winery, said yesterday Mr Tamihere and the other person had talked to staff, who had asked that any conversation with them not be recorded. Mr Soljan said his staff felt "let down" when it emerged they had been taped.
Mr Wishart said the attempted "cover-up" by Mr Tamihere meant further excerpts would be released. He would also be lodging a complaint with TVNZ over its handling of the issue on Agenda yesterday.
Last night, Mr Tamihere refused to comment, although confirmed he had returned to the winery and spoken to staff.
He said he believed they were happy to be taped.
In a later conversation, Mr Tamihere said he was glad the comments were out now so Mr Wishart didn't get another edition out of the interview.
- additional reporting Jonathan Dow
- Herald on Sunday