Labour leader David Cunliffe says anti-Asian comments made by the party's MP Shane Jones need to be seen in context.
TV3 News has reported that during a debate last week, Mr Jones told the audience that there are too many Asian students at New Zealand universities.
Video of the event shows Mr Jones questioning why society should continue to support these institutions to service the needs of Asian students, and not to develop the needs of Aotearoa.
Mr Cunliffe told Radio New Zealand's Checkpoint programme on Tuesday the event was a university-style debate format and Mr Jones has made it clear that he regrets what he said.
"He is a bit of an orator and sometimes in the heat of the debate, you can give a little flourish which, when it's captured on camera and circulated round the internet, can look different out of context. And that's a risk, frankly, that all politicians face in the electronic age."
Mr Cunliffe said Shane Jones does not stand by the comments he made and they do not reflect the wider views of the Labour Party.
Shane Jones has also criticised Green Party MP Gareth Hughes on radio's Waatea News on Monday for interfering in an Environmental Protection Authority (EPA) hearing into a plan to mine iron ore from the seabed.
Mr Jones said he tried not to interfere in the Commerce Commission's statutory responsibilites when raising concerns about supermarket chain Countdown. He said that should also be "good enough for the Green mollyhawk" with the EPA.
The Greens did contact Labour at the time, and the comments will be discussed between the parties' chiefs of staff at their next meeting.
Mr Cunliffe said he has talked to the caucus about sticking to their portfolios and not attacking potential coalition partners.