John Key was interviewed on The Nation on Saturday and was asked by Patrick Gower about the hair pulling issue.
Gower: Moving now to another issue that has been dominating things and that is of course the ponytail…
Gower: …incident. Some people back at home are saying “Hey what’s all the fuss about? You know can’t we have any fun any more?”
Key: Oh yeah but look I’ve tried to give a bit of context around what actually happened there but um and I accept that that will be some people’s view, but there’s also another view, ah which is I should have been much better at reading that situation more carefully.
I completely failed to read that situation correctly, um I actually regret that very deeply. I regret it for the young woman in question.
Um yes I was kidding around and didn’t mean any offence um but that shows you the danger of you know um undertaking those sort of you know kinda pranks if you like that they can be misinterpreted and misread.
Gower: So what do you say to those people who say ‘oh it’s all a fuss about nothing’ – that they’re wrong obviously?
Key: No I’m just saying that you know I have to take responsibility for my own actions. Um I completely misread the situation, clearly otherwise it you know wouldn’t have happened. Um and I just didn’t see it for what it was, um I did see it in a very light hearted nature, I’ve got a very casual relationship with the people there. We do have lots of fun. Um but…
Gower: Here’s the way of looking at it isn’t it, I mean how would you like it if someone did it to you.
Key: And that’s of course that’s right that’s the counter argument, I mean looking…
Gower: How would you lie it if someone pulled your hair?
Key: Well, ah, if it was in the context of the way that it happened there I would see it in that context, but I absolutely one hundred percent appreciate um in hindsight she didn’t and I should have read that situation more accurately.
Gower: Yeah because it’s not in the context of what happened there is it, the context really is about power. You’re the Prime Minister. She’s someone working in her job.
Key: Yes I understand that’s some people’s argument. There’s a counter argument…
Gower: Do you feel that you abused your power?
Key: Well I was going to say there’s a counter argument for that and I think yeah look by nature I’m a pretty casual person, and I do kid around and have a bit of fun, and I think one of the things that look you know that, look the majority of staff there have enjoyed is the fact that…
Gower: I guess the question is this…
Key: …the opposite, rather than the power sort of thing and me being a bit stuck up I’ve, stuck up I’ve been mucking around and having a bit of fun, now you know ok look in the end I got that wrong and I have to accept that.
Gower: Yeah and when you when you accept that you got it wrong, do you accept that you misused your power?
Key: No because I didn’t intend to do that, it was the opposite, I intended to try and be in a much more informal sort of setting so that I put people at ease and we could have a bit of a laugh and a bit of fun so it’s really the opposite.
But I accept that that’s an interpretation someone could get.
Gower: Sure and on that I mean do you feel um like you’ve let yourself down?
Key: Yes but I also have to take responsibility here for my own actions.
Gower: Some people will say this, and you know I have to ask, why the hair pulling?
Key: Well I mean look it was all just part of you know a a bit of jocularity was happening but you know it’s a very difficult thing, in the cold light of day when you look at these things, some things that are you know a bit of kidding round at the time, don’t seem that funny later on when they’re reflected on in the cold light of day. I see that and accept that now.
I think this is about as much as Key could do to front up, accept responsibility and limit the damage. It seems genuine enough to me (but some will never see any explanation from Key as genuine, and this is reflected in some social media comments).
He says he understands the issues and the criticisms and accepts their validity.
He has not questioned or challenged the waitress’ account of what happened at all. He has not blamed or criticised her at all.
The only thing not answered is why Key thought that puling hair was ok and would be acceptable in the first place. It still looks odd for an adult to be pulling hair in public.
Key accepts it’s not a good look but doesn’t explain why there was any hair pulling. Perhaps he has no explanation, doesn’t know why. It’s not normal no matter how jocular the situation might be – in fact to many people it’s decidedly abnormal.
That aside Key has probably done as much as he can to cop the flak and deal with and deflate the issue.
It’s not going to fade away completely, this is the sort of stuff-up that will be added to the list of misdemeanours and will be thrown at him for the rest of his political career by opponents. Especially by social media activists.
But Key has done what was necessary to front up and to minimise the damage. It’s impossible to measure how much damage has been done, and how much it will impact on his political future.
Source: Interview: Prime Minister John Key