Race Relations Commissioner Susan Devoy says Winston Peters needs to "focus on what is relevant" after the New Zealand First leader raised questions about work visa analysis carried out by two NZ Herald reporters.
Peters labelled the Herald's findings “rubbish” and highlighted the Asian ethnicity of the journalists involved - actions which lead to ACT's David Seymour calling him an “old fashioned racist” yesterday.
Now, Dame Susan has urged Peters to stick to what is relevant, while the NZ Herald moved to defend their coverage of work visas and the top five source countries for work visas last year.
“We suggest Winston Peters focuses on what journalists write, not their ethnicity or race,” said Dame Susan.
“Debate facts. Agree to disagree. But a journalist's ethnicity is not relevant.
“We are better than this.
“New Zealanders can debate immigration and other issues without attacking someone because of their ethnicity.”
Peters called the analysis “propaganda" and "completely wrong” - words that prompted a quick response from the Herald in defence of their reporters, Lincoln Tan and Harkanwal Singh, as well as the data used.
Herald editor Murray Kirkness said: "Winston Peters' statement - and in particular his aspersions on our journalists and their work - comes straight from the Donald Trump playbook.
"His reference to 'New Zealand Herald propaganda written by two Asian immigrant reporters' is a new low in political rhetoric in this election year. We condemn his comments.
"For the record, the article and interactive is accurate and presented in proper context using official Statistics NZ data.
"Peters would best be advised to try to grasp the complexity of the issues, and make a useful contribution to the immigration debate, rather than playing the race card or taking a wildly desperate swing at the media."