Deputy Labour leader Kelvin Davis has been accused of describing ongoing allegations of sexual assault by a party staffer as "rumours".
Meanwhile, Finance Minister Grant Robertson has continued to refuse to discuss claims he had been told about sexual assault accusations months ago.
Speaking in Parliament on Wednesday about the saga that has seen Labour Party President Nigel Haworth resign, Davis said the party was being criticised based on "kōhimuhimu" – which can be translated as whispers, gossip or rumours. https://www.nzherald.co.nz/nz/news/article.cfm?c_id=1&objectid=12266957
National's Paula Bennett, who has been in contact with complainants, on Thursday described it as "completely disrespectful".
"Already that day his president had resigned, his Prime Minister had apologised to those victims and then he goes out and calls it a rumour," she said.
"He owes them an apology."
Asked by reporters what he had meant with the word kōhimuhimu, Davis on Thursday answered: "Rumours", before pausing and then adding: "and allegations".
"I'm not responsible for the interpretation of what I say in Māori. It's a word that means both things ... What you're trying to do here is analyse our language and I'm not going to give you guys a language lesson," Davis said.
Pressed further, Davis said he had meant "allegations" in his speech.
When Bennett again raised the issue with Davis in the House on Thursday, Speaker Trevor Mallard eventually intervened during a forward-and-back, saying it was "clear we have a translation issue".
Mallard said his translation of the speech referenced "rumours" only in relation to the National Party, something Bennett disputed.
Meanwhile, Robertson again declined to confirm if he had been told about the allegations of sexual assault on June 30, as complainants have told media.
Questions have been raised about who in the party knew what about following claims by Haworth that the he and a panel investigating the staffer had not been told about sexual assault claims, in contradiction to statements by complainants to media.
Asked whether he had known earlier, Robertson on Thursday again cited privacy.
"I want to respect the privacy and anonymity of everybody involved in this situation," he said.
"This is not a political game of who knew what when. It's about young people in a very serious situation."