New Zealand's Prime Minister John Key publicly apologized on Wednesday morning to a waitress, who had alleged that he pulled her hair whenever he visited the café where she worked. The waitress had made the allegations in a post on the left-wing Daily Blog website, accusing Key of bullying and harassing her.
The woman said the hair-pulling started last year around elections. She wrote, in the post, that she told Key in person to stop the bullying in March, but he still continued to do so. The anonymous waitress wrote that Key would approach her making “scary, suspense sound effects, like the music from the movie Jaws."
“He would come up behind me when I was at the ordering terminal, tug on my hair and then pretend that his wife, Bronagh, had done it (much to her embarrassment), and she would tell him to stop it. As he rounded the corner behind me he commented ‘that’s a very tantalising ponytail’,” the woman wrote in the blog post.
The incident received flak from opposition parties and the public, leading to Key apologizing to the waitress and presenting her two personalized bottles of wine, the BBC reported.
However, the woman dismissed that apology, and wrote: “John seemed to think that his job demanded less professionalism than that of a waitress, yet he's the one that's running our entire country. Unfortunately, when our poor country is left cringing, tormented, cowering in the corner, it can’t be fixed with a bottle of wine, and neither was this."
"It's a familiar cafe which he regularly visits with [wife] Bronagh and both have a good relationship with those who work there. His actions were intended to be light-hearted. It was never his intention to make her feel uncomfortable and he has apologised to her," a statement from Key’s office, said, according to the Sydney Morning Herald.
Key had defended his actions by saying, according to the BBC, that he had "a very warm and friendly relationship" with the staff at the café, where "we have lots of fun and games there, there's always lots of practical jokes and things."
Green Party's Member of Parliament Metiria Turei, said, according to the Sydney Morning Herald, that Key’s actions were equivalent to bullying.
"New Zealanders know you can't walk into a cafe and start tugging on someone's hair, especially if they've told you they don't like it. John Key should be held to the same standards as the rest of us,” Turei reportedly said, adding: “A lot of New Zealanders know what it's like to feel as if you're not taken seriously in a job. As politicians, our job is to make people feel safe at work, not bullied."
"It's a sign of how out of touch John Key has become when he can't even monitor how inappropriate his personal behaviour is, and when people are not comfortable with how he is behaving," she added.