Mad Butcher row: Sir Peter Leitch's spokeswoman responds to criticism over comments to Maori woman Lara Bridger

A spokeswoman for 'Mad Butcher' Sir Peter Leitch has responded to criticism over his racial comments, describing the woman as "barely coffee coloured".

Auckland woman Lara Bridger, 23, posted a video on social media Tuesday claiming Sir Peter had told her Waiheke Island was a "white man's island".

In a statement issued Tuesday night, Sir Peter said he was "extremely disappointed that a young woman 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. 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.

"When she later informed me she was offended by my comment I apologised unreservedly. There is no way I can ever be accused of being racist."

Sir Peter's media spokeswoman, former National Party president Michelle Boag, told Māori Television that Bridger came forward because she wanted to be famous. Bridger denied that and said that she was genuinely upset by being a target of racism.

"When you're feeling a certain way it triggers an emotion. I didn't do it for the attention," she told Māori Television.

Lara Wharepapa Bridger in a tearful Facebook Live video post in which she alleges Sir Peter Leitch racially abused her. Photo / Facebook
Lara Wharepapa Bridger in a tearful Facebook Live video post in which she alleges Sir Peter Leitch racially abused her. Photo / Facebook

Boag told the Herald her "flippant" comment had been taken out of context.

She had told Maori Television that Bridger had claimed Leitch approached her because she was "black".

"I said 'that was ridiculous she was barely coffee coloured'."

"It's been blown out of all proportion."

Boag thought she was having a casual chat to the Maori Television journalist.

"It was part of a very lengthy conversation where they did not tell me I was on speaker phone and I thought I was having a chat with a journalist. I found out then that everyone in the office was listening.

"Then they're repeating it completely out of context.

"It was an observation."

Boag did not know if Leitch had heard her comment yet.

"He's' got plenty of things to do. He's not worrying about what the media is saying."

Bridger said she contacted Leitch to arrange a meeting to apologise. She says he wished her a Happy New Year but did not commit to a meeting.

In a Facebook post this morning Bridger disputed Leitch's version of events.

"Record straight I did NOT say 'I could do what I like' he came at us with a whole you're not a local in which I responded "yeah I'm tangata whenua born here mate 23 years ago".

The 23-year-old Maori woman was at a wine-tasting with her mother and sister at Stonyridge Vineyard when they spotted Sir Peter eating lunch with his family.

Sir Peter Leitch aka The Mad Butcher. Photo / Dean Purcell
Sir Peter Leitch aka The Mad Butcher. Photo / Dean Purcell

She said that when they went to leave Sir Peter approached them and began making conversation, during which he warned them not to drink and drive before going on to say they must not be local.

"I go 'Yeah, I'm actually born here'. That's when he said 'Well this is a white man's island and you should acknowledge that'," she said.

In the post Bridger said she refused to "acknowledge that".

"Sorry this place is for everyone. And when you're standing over someone pointing at them in the face with a stern tone I didn't take it as light banter ..."

Bridger removed the video Tuesday night saying "people were going a bit overboard with threats and racist comments" against Sir Peter in response to her post.

"I was just upset that someone whom I once looked up to had that mentality ... I don't wish any bad upon anyone and making more racist comments will make us no better.

"I don't like attention that's not me, but the video went viral and backlash happened. I will contact him myself and hopefully he'll understand why I was so upset."

- NZ Herald

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