There is a risk Winston Peters' attack on Herald reporters as "Asian immigrants" writing "propaganda" will lead to racist incidents, Act leader David Seymour says.
In a press release last night Peters took issue with a front-page story by Lincoln Tan and Harkanwal Singh, which examined immigration numbers, including the top five source countries for work visas last year.
Peters asserted the data and analysis was flawed, saying "propaganda written by two Asian immigrant reporters stating the top five source nations for work visas are not Asian is completely wrong".
"The main source countries for work visas are Asian countries - not the UK, Germany, Australia, South Africa and the US as the Herald so erroneously and irresponsibly claims. Quite clearly they don't mind creating confusion and spreading misinformation," Peters said.
In a response, Tan and Singh stood by the analysis and said Peters' criticism of the analysis was wrong, and "perhaps it is data which creates too much complexity for Peters to be able to blame the Asians".
This morning, Seymour said it mattered that someone in Peters' position was making such "idiotic" statements.
"I meet people in my electorate [Epsom]. In one case a woman who was pushed out onto Manukau Rd by someone yelling racist tirades. Unfortunately there are some people out there who don't have a lot of original thought, and they are likely to have their views legitimised by leaders.
"There is a space for a debate about immigration and its impact, particularly on things like housing and infrastructure. And people want to have that debate, even a lot of recent immigrants to New Zealand."
Last night Dame Susan Devoy, Race Relations Commissioner, said Peters should "focus on what journalists write, not their ethnicity or race".
Herald editor Murray Kirkness said Peters' statement "comes straight from the Donald Trump playbook" and "is a new low in political rhetoric in this election year".
"For the record, the article and interactive is accurate and presented in proper context using official Statistics NZ data - context that is further expanded upon here by our two journalists, Harkanwal Singh and Lincoln Tan," Kirkness said.