MAGA backdown: Todd Muller won't display controversial hat in office

New National Party leader Todd Muller won't display his Make America Great Again (MAGA) hat in his new office, saying it has become a distraction.

Muller took charge of the party on Friday and spent much of his weekend as leader jumping between different media interviews to introduce himself to New Zealanders. However, while Muller's intention was clearly to speak about the National Party's agenda, controversy swirled around a hat previously seen on display in his office.

The MAGA cap created for the 2016 Donald Trump campaign has become an icon of Trump's nationalistic policies and worn regularly by individuals at far-right rallies. Many have argued it has become a symbol of racism.

While Muller defended owning the cap on Saturday, telling Newshub Nation he picked it up as a souvenir in the US when visiting prior to the 2016 election and he also owned a Hillary Clinton badge, he has now decided to keep it in a box. 

During his move to his new office, Muller said he packed it away and "it will stay in the box."

"You understand the context that that hat was for me, part of memorabilia when I went to two conventions. Clearly, for other people, it has a greater and personal meaning. I respect that," he told reporters on Tuesday.

"I am not focussed on hats. I am focussed, with my team, on building an economic recovery for New Zealand. It was becoming a distraction. It got packed away when I moved and I said 'Keep it in the box'.

New deputy leader Nikki Kaye said it would be "replaced by a National Party cap".

Kaye defended Muller on The AM Show on Monday, saying that she didn't believe Muller endorsed Trump's views. 

"I think Todd is absolutely focussed on rebuilding New Zealand, and we shouldn't read too much into souvenirs on his desk."

Muller has previously said he is an American politics junkie and believed the United States had become a more politically divided place. 

"Over the last 30 or 40 years it's become more and more partisan, and I think that doesn't work for the country as a whole. This is not an anti-Republican or anti-Democrat - I think both sides have built that partisanship to the level that it appears from the outside to be becoming quite destructive."