A waitress says she went public about John Key repeatedly pulling her hair at the Parnell cafe where she works because the Prime Minister "feels he is untouchable".
Amanda Bailey, 26, told the Herald that while she regretted the attention the controversy brought on her workplace and co-owners, she had no regrets about exposing Mr Key's behaviour.
Scroll down to read a statement from Shayne Currie, editor NZ Herald
"I didn't think it was appropriate behaviour and I didn't feel I should have to put up with that," the Rosie cafe worker told the Herald.
"I expected more from him and I want the public to be aware."
She said Mr Key's unwanted physical attention was wrong.
"I felt the actions weren't those of a Prime Minister and I felt New Zealand should know that. It is because he is the PM that I went to the media.
John Key feels he is untouchable."
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Her bosses, Hip Group owners Jackie Grant and Scott Brown, told the Herald they were disappointed Ms Bailey - who they say has "strong political points of view" - went public rather than coming to them directly with her concerns. However, they are hoping to "put this all behind us" now.
Hip Group owns several cafes in Auckland, including Rosie.
"We believe Amanda's intention was never to reflect any ill will to the Hip Group or to her co-workers. Had we been aware that Amanda had a grievance we would have acted but she did not make an official complaint. She said nothing to us.
"The Prime Minister is a regular at Rosie and he's well loved amongst the staff. He always comes in with his wife Bronagh and his security detail, and the staff are always happy to accommodate them."
A political storm erupted after Ms Bailey posted an anonymous letter on the left-leaning website The Daily Blog yesterday, saying Mr Key had behaved like a "schoolyard bully" when visiting the cafe during the past six months.
She wrote that he had pulled on her ponytail on repeated occasions while visiting with wife Bronagh, despite the waitress making it clear the physical contact was offensive and unwanted, even threatening to hit him if he did not desist.
He eventually apologised by giving her two bottles of his own pinot noir wine.
Mr Key's office responded by issuing an apology for any offence caused, saying his interactions were intended to be "light-hearted".
Speaking from Los Angeles airport en route to Turkey to commemorate the centenary of the Gallipoli landings, Mr Key told One News he was a regular at the cafe and had a "fun relationship" with staff.
"There's always lots of horsing around and sort of practical jokes and that's all there really was to it."
However, his actions were inappropriate in hindsight, Mr Key admitted.
"But in the context of 'we have lots of fun and games there', there's always practical jokes and things," he said.
"It's a very warm, friendly relationship. In that context you'd say yes, but if you look at it now, no."
A source told the Herald Mr Key had been going to the cafe for years and would regularly enjoy "banter" with the staff on his Friday morning and Saturday afternoon visits.
"John Key used to call one of the waitresses Princess. He was always matey with the girls."
Human Rights Commissioner Jackie Blue issued a statement saying it was never okay to touch someone without their permission.
"There are no exceptions."
The National Council of Women said in an open letter Mr Key had crossed the line and "joined the list of people outed for sexism".
"We are disappointed to learn of your unwanted touching of a cafe worker.
"We appreciate your apology to her and we understand that your actions were well-intentioned and not meant to offend or do the worker any harm.
"You no doubt know that it's never okay to touch someone without their permission. You probably think that you've never touched someone in such a way before.
"However, this incident shows that you have crossed the line. You will now be aware of the impact -- the worker described how vulnerable and embarrassed she felt."
Shayne Currie, Editor of NZ Herald has released a statement on how the story was reported:
Rachel Glucina approached the Hip Group yesterday, after The Daily Blog broke the story. She knows the Hip Group owners personally.
Glucina wanted to follow-up The Daily Blog post and urged the couple to front-foot the issue.
She spoke to the couple and the waitress over the telephone. Regardless of any confusion over the initial approach, all three agreed they wanted to make a public statement.
They also agreed to pose for a photograph and a Herald photographer was dispatched. They were told by the photographer that the photo would be appearing in the Herald.
Herald editor Shayne Currie also spoke to the owners of the Hip Group yesterday afternoon following a call from a PR firm that had already been helping them.
"When I spoke to the owners, they told me they had initially thought Rachel was working on a statement to go to all media, along with the photograph.
"Given the situation, I wanted to absolutely ensure they knew this interview and photograph were for the Herald. To further ease any concerns, we took the very rare step of agreeing Rachel should run the quotes past the parties before publication.
"By then, no one was in any doubt that the article, quotes and photograph would be appearing in the Herald."
Press Council ruling
On April 23, the New Zealand Herald published, front-page and online, an article about Amanda Bailey and the controversy over her reaction to the Prime Minister, John Key, when he persistently pulled her ponytail at the cafe where she worked as a waitress.
The Press Council has upheld the substance of the complaints. This is a brief outline; for the full Press Council decision, in two parts, please see www.presscouncil.org.nz.
Lisa Finlay, Bronwyn Hayward, Leanne Hermosilla, Josh Hetherington, Rob Stowell, Jasmine Taylor, Giovanni Tiso, Daniel Webster and Julia Woodhall complained that the article breached several Press Council principles.
Key concerns were:
• The Herald columnist, Rachel Glucina, had misrepresented as PR rather than newsgathering the basis on which she was conducting the interview that led to the article (subterfuge).
• The columnist's and her brother's connections with the cafe owners and the columnist's connection with John Key were not disclosed (conflict of interest).
• There was no clear consent from Ms Bailey concerning publication in the Herald.
• The Herald failed to contact Ms Bailey after it became apparent there were concerns about the article prior to publication, dealing only with the cafe owners.
In short, the complaints stated the Herald had failed to act transparently and in good faith with Ms Bailey and had breached professional standards.
In response the Herald, in brief:
• Denied any subterfuge.
• Said if Ms Bailey had been told the interview was for a PR exercise, she had not been told it by the Herald.
• Said the Herald had spoken to the cafe owners in the early evening and while they said they had thought the article was for all media, they "were comfortable with the fact that they would appear in the paper the following day". They were and remained the Herald's intermediary with Ms Bailey, and were supplied with their (and her) quotes so that all could see what would be published the next day.
• Maintained all quotes were correct and in context.
The Press Council cannot rule out the possibility of a genuine misunderstanding in the first instance about the nature of Ms Glucina's approach and the article she proposed to write.
However, once the interview was taking place, the onus was on Ms Glucina as a professional media person to make the position completely clear to all parties, particularly to Ms Bailey, with whom she had had no previous contact, who was in a vulnerable position, and whose interests could well have been in conflict with those of the cafe owners.
Ms Glucina, and the Herald in the later dealings, could not delegate to the cafe owners the obligation to ensure Ms Bailey understood the nature of the proposed article in consenting to the interview. The Herald did not act professionally and with fairness towards Ms Bailey.
The council also finds a breach of the conflict principle in that the Herald did not disclose Ms Glucina's relationship with the management of the cafe.
The Press Council is concerned with maintaining the press in accordance with the highest professional standards. In its view, the Herald, in respect of the Glucina article, has fallen sadly short of those standards.