The Williamson furore

Stuff reports:

National MP has unreservedly apologised for causing offence during a speech in which he showed pictures of nearly-naked women and made references to sex acts.

The high-profile backbencher and former minister was “so offensive” in his recent presentation at SkyCity, attendees walked out of the awards dinner where he was the MC last Tuesday. 

The theme of the Esri Users dinner was superheroes and supervillains, and Williamson attended dressed as “The Greatest American Hero”.

He displayed pictures of scantily-clad women, and ended his presentation with an audio clip that offended many.

The fake advertisement features references to sex acts which some in the audience said was degrading to women and gay men.

On Wednesday afternoon Williamson issued a statement saying he was asked “to be as entertaining and as funny as I possibly could” when he was MC for the event.

Williamson said it was never his intention to upset any delegates, but he accepted he overstepped the line on the night and caused offence. 

“For that I unreservedly apologise,” he said. 

Almost all humour is offensive to someone. However it is important to calibrate the humour to the event. I’ve said some incredibly offensive things at a comedy debate in a pub, which I wouldn’t use when chairing a light hearted debate between MPs at the National Party conference.

The speech was not “the threshold for leaving Parliament”, and Williamson would not be the first MP who had “said a few things he would probably regret,” Key said.

Are people really saying that you should resign as an MP, because of some jokes you made while MCing an event?

But Labour’s spokeswoman for women Sue Moroney said that was not good enough, and called for Key to stop dismissing Williamson’s “completely unacceptable” behaviour and publicly reprimand him.

“This is not the first time Maurice Williamson has used highly offensive humour and he should have learnt by now. 

“Instead of dismissing his MP as ‘flamboyant’ John Key should condemn his toxic comments and demand a full public apology,” Moroney said. 

Williamson has apologised. But maybe there should be a public flogging also?

E-Spatial business relationship manager Melissa West was at the event, and said it was “what I would expect from a stag do”.

Williamson would say something like “my staff went out to look for costumes for me”, then put up a picture that West said “to me, looked like a porn star wearing a Spiderman costume or a Superman costume – or lack of, as the case may be.”

“It was at the point where there were people at our table who were very, very uncomfortable – this is both sexes.”

Others were so offended they got up from their table and walked out, West said.

But not all attendees were offended by Williamson – Lauren Sperry said she enjoyed the speech, and was “quite shocked about the fuss everybody is making about it”.

Sperry thought Williamson was both funny and entertaining, but acknowledged his comments were sexist.

“The comments that he made were definitely sexist but, hey, we’re big girls now – I didn’t think there was anything extremely offensive, it was just a bit of fun and a bit of ribbing, really.”

Those that were offended should “get a job in a knitting circle” and stop spoiling her fun.

“I think that we’ve got to grow up and stop being so politically correct about everything – it was just a laugh and, yeah, get over it, basically.”

As I said earlier, almost all humour is offensive to someone. However if the event is a dinner as part of a conference, then it is a different forum to saying a roast at a comedy festival. In the latter people have made a deliberate choice to go to an event that may have edgy or offensive humour. But a conference dinner is something people attend as part of being at the conference. They may want entertainment as part of it, but you should be far more careful with your jokes, and Maurice obviously showed bad judgement on this.

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