Labour sacks candidate who praised racist 'Wogistan' column

Labour has sacked a candidate from its list after it emerged he once praised a column describing Islam as a "Stone Age religion" and its followers as a "sorry pack of misogynist troglodytes from Wogistan".

Kurt Taogaga was ranked 68th on the party's 84-strong list to contest the election in September - on recent polling an outside chance of making it into Parliament. Taogaga stood in Helensville in 2017 but lost to National's Chris Penk. 

In 2013 - before entering politics - Taogaga said on Twitter "we need to see Islam for what it truly is". He linked to a news article about what he called a "brave" column by then-New Zealand First MP Richard Prosser in Investigate magazine.

In the article - written after he had a pocketknife confiscated by airport security - Prosser said Muslims threaten New Zealanders' way of life and said young men who "look like a Muslim" should be banned from flying.

"Go ride a camel instead," he added.

In his tweets, Taogaga said 'Wogistan' was "an unfortunate choice of words" and he wasn't sure he agreed "wholeheartedly", but called the column "brave".

"Some kernels of truth," he added. 

Newshub Nation/Kurt Taogaga/Twitter
The tweets. Photo credit: Newshub Nation/Kurt Taogaga/Twitter

In response to another Twitter user saying Prosser was "only voicing what others are thinking", Taogaga said "Hear hear. I get that feeling as well. Let's debate this rather than shout him down. Islam is deserved of serious analysis".

He then tweeted at scientist Richard Dawkins - an outspoken critic of religion, and particularly Islam - inviting him to come to New Zealand. 

Asked about the comments on Newshub Nation, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said she wasn't aware of them. 

"It is not the belief system of the Labour Party, but I am happy to reflect on a column from, again, seven years ago, and take any steps that might be required as a result in terms of making sure our candidates are familiar with the values we hold as a party."

After the interview, which was recorded on Friday, Labour moved to kick Taogaga off its list to contest the election.

"The opinions expressed in his tweets from 2013 do not represent the views of the Labour Party," said Claire Szabo, Labour Party president.

"The Labour Party is committed to inclusion of all religions and stands against intolerance. After these tweets came to light they were discussed with Kurt and he has apologised." 

After Newshub initially published this story, Taogaga took to Twitter to apologise.

"t has come to my attention that inappropriate tweets I made at the age of 29 have resurfaced in the public eye. I would like to offer a complete and wholehearted apology for any offence these tweets have caused," he wrote.

"In the intervening years, I have made positive efforts to educate myself and develop my thinking on the matter. I would like to re-state, firstly, to my Muslim friends and colleagues in the Labour Party and the community as a whole that I value you, I regret my comments and they do not reflect the views and values I hold today.

"I offered my apology to the party and my name has been withdrawn from the party list. I take full and one hundred per cent responsibility for those tweets from 2013. I will do better in future."

Ardern said she would "expect" all candidates to "know the values of the Labour Party" and uphold them.

She criticised a recent press release put out by National candidate Hamish Walker, singling out Kiwis coming home from Korea, India, and Pakistan, as "totally inappropriate". 

"These are Kiwis, and many of them will have gone through a very, very difficult few months, and what I've been really heartened by is to see communities who are going out of their way, like the primary school children trying to put up welcome messages across the road from facilities, that is the way that we should be responding to those returning New Zealanders."

She would "not expect" any Labour MPs to hold similar views against Kiwis coming home as the COVID-19 pandemic rages overseas.

As for Prosser, at first, he was defiant.

"Well if MPs don't say this, who will? We are here to represent and to speak about the views that people have."

He apologised "unreservedly" the next day

Once rising as high as third on New Zealand's First list, he was dropped to 15th in 2017 and failed to make it back into Parliament.

Earlier this year he claimed on his blog the coronavirus pandemic is a conspiracy orchestrated "at the behest of a global financial cartel who own the world’s commercial banking sector, and who own and control the world's media, and who own and control the corporations that monopolise agriculture, military materiel production, and utilities, including oil, electricity, telecommunications, and even water".


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