Labour Party candidate Steven Gibson is on his final warning after posting comments to Facebook referring to Prime Minister John Key as "Shylock".
Mr Gibson, who is running for Canterbury's Rangitata electorate, apologised for the comment on Monday, saying he was not aware of its anti-Semitic connotations.
He wrote: "There is the REAL face of Shonky Jonkey Shylock...nasty little creep with a nasty evil and vindictive sneer," on his social media page, beneath a photo of Mr Key and then-ACT leader John Banks having the infamous cup of tea meeting in 2011.
Shylock is a villainous Jewish moneylender in Shakespeare's play The Merchant of Venice.
Mr Gibson defended himself on Radio New Zealand, saying he'd simply repeated the words of constituent, and believed Shylock was a reference to a bad deal.
"I was a bit over my head at the time. I didn't bother ... enquiring what they meant by using that word. I'm a rookie at this thing and I'm not out there to offend anybody," he said.
Asked how the comment fitted with Labour's vote positive campaign, Mr Gibson replied "it doesn't and that's why I'm going to take the post down."
He said he was part Jewish and not anti-Semitic.
Labour leader David Cunliffe said he found the whole comment, not the just the Shylock reference, totally unacceptable, and had placed Mr Gibson on a final warning.
"He's very remorseful," he told the broadcaster. "I've rung him and told him it in no way meets our expectations of running a positive campaign.
He said he believed Mr Gibson was ignorant of the racial undertones "but whatever, I think it's incredibly poor judgment and I've told him so."
The New Zealand Jewish Council says anti-Semitic attacks in New Zealand are becoming more common.
"There seems to be an increasing amount of anti-Semitic activity at the moment and some is associated with the election campaign and we feel this is quite disappointing and inappropriate to happen in New Zealand," says the council's president Stephen Goodman.
source: newshub archive