Olivia Pierson, author of ‘Western Values Defended: A Primer’ and a columnist at New Zealand media outlet the BFD, posted tweets criticizing the appointment of Nanaia Mahuta as the country’s new foreign minister. Pierson made a number of derogatory remarks about Mahuta’s Maori facial tattoos, calling them “ugly” and “uncivilized.”

She also described the minister’s appearance as “not exactly a polished, civilized presentation for a foreign diplomat.”

Despite social media users criticizing Pierson and calling for her to be ‘cancelled’, her employer has stood by her, arguing that demanding someone be fired for “expressing a simple opinion” is “the lowest of the low and should be treated with the contempt it deserves.”  

The editor of the BFD, Juana Atkins, shared a series of emails she’d received and the messages she’d sent in response, reaffirming that the publication will not subscribe to cancel culture and will strongly defend freedom of speech and expression. 

“I do not believe that you or anyone else has the right to be offended,” Atkins said. “Offence is something you have chosen to take and it is your responsibility and no one else’s.” 

While her employer has been vocal in supporting Pierson, New Zealand retailer MightyApe has withdrawn her book from sale and pledged that it “would not be making it available again” in light of her comments. Pierson mockingly responded to MightyApe by claiming that she “didn’t know they even sold” her book and that it was “clearly not a website” she uses. 

For many people of Maori ancestry, the tattoos are an integral part of their heritage and genealogy, linking to a sacred tradition dating back centuries.

Mahuta has strong roots with the Maori King Movement and is related to the current Maori monarch, Kiingi Tuheitia.

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