Race row: Mad Butcher's spokeswoman explains colour comments

Michelle Boag, the spokeswoman for Sir Peter Leitch over his race-related comments on Waiheke Island, has defended comments describing the woman involved.

As reported earlier, Boag used the term "coffee-coloured" to describe 23-year-old Lara Bridger when talking to Maori Television.

And in a subsequent social media post, Radio New Zealand journalist Michael Cropp claimed Boag told him "she's barely even got a tan" as she "tried to discredit Lara and control RNZ's coverage".


When asked by the Herald, RNZ confirmed Boag's comment quoted in the tweet were made on the record.

On Tuesday, Bridger posted a video on social media accusing Sir Peter of being racist for saying Waiheke Island was "a white man's island" during a chance meeting on the island on Tuesday. Sir Peter denied the allegation, saying Bridger "misinterpreted some light-hearted banter".

This morning, Boag told the Herald her comment to Maori TV needed to be taken in context.

"Oh, look, that's a bit ridiculous. [The reporter] rang me about the comment I made about being coffee-coloured and that was in response to something [Bridger] said about Sir Peter targeting her because she was black.

"In the video, she said 'he made a beeline for me because I was black'. Then I just made a flippant comment saying: 'Oh, that's ridiculous - she's barely coffee-coloured'.

"And that's just on the same line."

Asked whether she might offer an apology for the coffee-coloured comments, Boag insisted it was taken out of context and that no offence was intended.

"[Lara Bridger's] a very attractive colour - and I aspire to a tan like that every year. So there was no offence [intended]. It was just a comment that was taken out of context that ... I certainly wouldn't have said it as an official comment."

Maori TV story producer Aroha Awarau told the Herald Boag's claims the comments were taken out of context were not true.

Boag had been asked whether she thought "anyone has the right to tell someone else how they should feel if they feel they've been racially attacked" when she made the "coffee" comment.

He said Boag should have reasonably expected to be quoted on her answers to his and Maori TV reporter Wepiha Te Kanawa's questions during their conversation.

They had told her they were journalists and at no point did Boag state what she was saying was off the record, Awarau said.

Asked whether Sir Peter would accept Bridger's invitation to meet and offer an apology, Boag replied: "Unlikely."

She said she had spoken with Sir Peter this morning and remained his spokeswoman.

"He's good. He's very pleased that [Race Relations Commissioner] Dame Susan Devoy has come out and said he's the least racist person she knows and he's delighted with the support he's had.

"He appreciates it very much. Again, he's not going to make a statement. But he very much appreciates the support.

"I think it was a dreadful misunderstanding that went very wrong and he apologised at the time when she said that he'd taken offence. But you know, [Bridger] obviously wanted to take it further. So that's fine - he's said his piece."

Dame Susan told Radio NZ early today she did not think Sir Peter meant to offend.

"I know he's the least racist person I know in the world and yet what he said was obviously taken as offence by that young woman.

"But I wasn't there and I wasn't part of the conversation."

However, in a statement issued later this morning Dame Susan praised Bridger for speaking up and referred to "casual racism".

"The thing about so-called casual racism is that it doesn't feel very casual if it happens to you or your family as Lara has shown us."

- NZ Herald

Get the news delivered straight to your inbox

Receive the day’s news, sport and entertainment in our daily email newsletter

SIGN UP NOW

© Copyright 2017, NZME. Publishing Limited

Assembled by: (static) on production apcf03 at 27 Feb 2017 11:10:46 Processing Time: 425ms