ACT's Mark Cameron says he regrets "flippant remarks" he made about Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern on social media in 2019 before he became an MP.
Cameron, a dairy farmer who was elected to Parliament in 2020, told reporters on Tuesday the comments he made about Ardern in the past were made "as a civilian".
The rural spokesperson in 2019 described Ardern on social media as a "feckless wench" who "has no bloody idea about the cost to rural farmers". He endorsed the acronym MAGA, "Make Ardern go away", and called her a "vacuous teenager".
Cameron said he regrets the comments.
"I think I always regret the silly things that I've said in my past. We all make mistakes and I'm a human being and I made them," he said, describing them as "flippant remarks".
"But I made those as a civilian, not a parliamentarian," he said. "I reiterate and I double down on the point that I'm a human being, I have made mistakes, as we all have here."
Cameron isn't alone in having old social media comments come back to haunt him. Tweets from 2012 show Ardern expressing disbelief at Boris Johnson being considered as a candidate for UK Prime Minister. She described him as "the gaffe man".
She didn't go quite as far as then-Opposition leader Simon Bridges, who described Johnson as having "buffoon-like qualities" - a description Cameron also used in reference to Ardern.
Cameron suggested it was Labour minister Stuart Nash's recent comments about Groundswell protesters that were most problematic.
In Parliament last week, Cameron asked if Agriculture Minister Damien O'Connor had met with Groundswell - a group opposed to several of the Government's rural regulations - and Nash, speaking on O'Connor's behalf, generalised them as "racists and anti-vaxxers".
"I'm not too sure what Groundswell stands for these days. It's a mixture of racists, anti-vaxers, etcetera, etcetera. But we will continue to meet with farming leaders," Nash said.
ACT leader David Seymour is calling on Nash to apologise.
"Stuart Nash is doing exactly what all of us should be opposed to, which is type-casting and stereo-grouping a whole group of people for the sins of a very small minority that we're obviously all opposed to."
Ardern said on Monday she wouldn't force Nash to apologise.
"I wouldn't use that language. I wouldn't describe, generally, an entire group of people in that way," she told reporters. "But I am not going to ask him to apologise for his comments."
Photos shared on social media of the Groundwells protests on Sunday showed some anti-Māori sentiment on display.
Nash said on Tuesday he was standing up for Māori Labour minister Nanaia Mahuta, who was inappropriately portrayed as a gang member on social media by Hamilton Groundswell co-ordinator Ross Townshend, who has since been dropped.
"That's what you should be calling out. It was a disgusting post about a woman who I think does a fantastic job. It was on their website and that's what I was referring to," Nash said.
Cameron said he was in Whangarei, and saw no racism on display.
"I was in Whangarei supporting my fellow farmers as a farmer and I didn't see anything that was indicative of either racial slurs or any anti-vaxx sentiment. It was a collective voice of rural concerns - communities and farmers alike."
Labour minister Willie Jackson suggested Nash's comments in Parliament were taken out of context.
"I think it probably was a bit misquoted," he told reporters.
"The reality is, there's been some good people... I don't mind saying there's been some good people involved in that. But I think the problem they have is that it gets taken over sometimes by opportunists and that's the case with a lot of protests."
"People hijack those sorts of protests for their own needs and maybe Stu saw too many of those types out the front."