Labour MP Deborah Russell has backtracked on her comments regarding small businesses' own responsibility for being in trouble in the pandemic.
Earlier this week, Russell made headlines when she said businesses in trouble "after only a few weeks in a pretty bad situation" was a sign they did not have the necessary strength.
During a select committee hearing on Tuesday, the Labour MP for New Lynn, a former academic, questioned Finance Minister Grant Robertson about her "concerns around small and medium business" and what was being done to build up business strength.
"We are seeing a number of small businesses really struggling, after only a few weeks in a pretty bad situation, which must speak to the strength of those small businesses going into this lockdown.
"It worries that perhaps people went into small business without really understanding how you might build up a business or capitalise a business in the first place, so you have the ongoing strength to survive a setback," Russell said.
Her comments were immediately criticised by Robertson and Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern who both publicly expressed their disagreement.
Speaking to Heather du Plessis-Allan on Newstalk ZB this afternoon, Russell backtracked on her words and apologised to anyone hurt by her comments.
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Questioned over whether she really did think it was a business owner's fault if they were struggling in lockdown, Russell backtracked on her comments from earlier this week and said: "the fault is clearly Covid-19's, it's a ghastly situation".
The Labour MP admitted she "used some pretty bad words".
"I did entonate it was their fault and I wish I hadn't. But I certainly didn't mean to hurt people, it wasn't my intent," she added.
"Lots of people felt that I was blaming them and I'm really sorry I made them feel that way."
Russell reiterated that there is a need "to think about how to build the strength of our business sector" but said that now is not the time. "Our focus right now has to be on getting people through the crisis."
The MP says the Prime Minister is "a great leader" and called her after her comments and said "hey, hang in there, you'll be all right".
When asked whether the Prime Minister had told her off for her comments in private, she said "that's not Jacinda's way".
Russell says no one in the party told her her comments were inappropriate
"I don't think they needed to," she said. "I'm a grown up. I can take responsibility for my own words."
The Labour MP says, once we're out of the crisis, "we need to have a really good think about how we make our businesses more resilient".
Russell also put an apology on her public Facebook page this afternoon.
"I'm really concerned about small businesses. People work hard to get them up and running, and they are an incredibly important part of our communities. My questions to ministers in the select committee were about understanding what is being done to help small businesses survive, and what we can do to help them to become more resilient in the difficult times ahead," she wrote.
"But I understand that the way I expressed some of my ideas was really hurtful to small business operators. I'm very sorry that I did that."