Henry apology for G-G race comments

BY MARTIN KAY
Last updated 16:59 04/10/2010

Paul Henry on the Governor General

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Fairfax
STIR: Breakfast host Paul Henry has raised eyebrows by questioning whether Governor-General Sir Anand Satyanand is a New Zealander.
Ben Gracewood
BEN GRACEWOOD: 'I do not wish to appear to condone his perspectives by my inaction.'
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TVNZ shock jock Paul Henry has apologised for saying that Governor-General Sir Anand Satyanand was not Kiwi enough for the job.

Henry caused a storm after he said this morning that Sir Anand did not look or sound like a New Zealander when he asked Prime Minister John Key whether the next Governor-General would be more Kiwi.

"Is he even a New Zealander?" Henry asked. ''Are you going to choose a New Zealander who looks and sounds like a New Zealander this time?''

» Click here to see an interactive timeline of Paul Henry's offensive comments.

Sir Anand, who has Fijian-Indian parents, was born and raised in Auckland, and worked as a lawyer, judge and Parliamentary Ombudsman in New Zealand before becoming Governor-General in 2006.

Sir Anand is in India for the Commonwealth Games. His public affairs manager Antony Paltridge told NZPA he had spoken to Sir Anand, who acknowledged Henry's apology.

However, he would not comment on Henry's initial statements.

"We won't be dignifying that sort of comment with a response," he said.

Henry told Stuff earlier today he did not regret the comments, but has since issued a statement apologising.

"I sincerely apologise to the Governor General, Sir Anand Satyanand for any offence I may have caused. I am aware that Sir Anand has made an outstanding contribution to New Zealand.

"Anyone who knows anything about me will know I am a royalist, a constant defender of the monarchy and the role the Governor General plays in our society.

"If my comments have personally offended Sir Anand, I regret it deeply."

Key says he will continue his weekly interview with Paul Henry on TVNZ's Breakfast, despite saying he was taken aback by Henry's comments.

Key said the comments were "plain wrong", but would not cause him to rethink his appearances with Henry, who he described as a "shock jock".

"Fundamentally, [the comments] are just plain wrong. Clearly, Anand Satyanand is not only a New Zealander, he's a very fine New Zealander."

 Key was clearly uncomfortable when Henry made the comments during this morning's show, and attempted to laugh them off by asking Henry if he was after the job when Sir Anand's term ends next year.

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Asked why he did not do more to hose the comments down, Mr Key said: "I was a bit taken aback when he said it, to be perfectly honest. I wasn't going to get into critiquing what he means, and I was a bit surprised when he said it so I just carried on.

"Paul Henry is like a number of other shock jocks around the country. They say outrageous things from time to time, but that doesn't mean he's right. In this case he's plain wrong."

He said whether was disciplined by TVNZ or the Broadcasting Standards Authority over the comments was up to them.

TVNZ said it had received "several dozen" complaints by this afternoon.

CONTRIBUTOR PULLS OUT

The interview has already sparked complaints from viewers, and TVNZ gadget reviewer Ben Gracewood has pulled out of his regular slot on the Breakfast show, citing Henry's comments as "the last straw".

In a written statement, Gracewood said: "Paul Henry's comment made me very uncomfortable as a New Zealander, and I don't wish to associate, or be associated with people who make such comments. Although I doubt that my actions will in anyway influence someone such as Paul Henry, I do not wish to appear to condone his perspectives by my inaction."

Race Relations Commissioner Joris De Bres told Fairfax Henry's comments were ''ignorant'' and suggested that he believed that anyone who was not white or Maori was not a New Zealander.

''It reveals a degree of ignorance about who is a New Zealander, which is a bit surprising in someone who is running our foremost breakfast current affairs programme. What he could helpfully do is explain who he thinks does sound and look like a New Zealander and who does not, and if the answer to that is anybody who's not white or Maori, then I think he does need a bit of education by Television New Zealand.''

NO REGRETS

This morning, before this afternoon's apoplogy, Henry told Stuff the meaning of his comments was clear, and he did not regret making them.

''I think what I said is obvious. It was but a moment in time.''

Asked why he thought Sir Anand did not look and sound like a New Zealander he said: ''As I say, the comments that I made were perfectly clear, and I have no particular interest in discussing them any further.''

He said that if anybody took exception to the comments, it was because ''some people are very easily offended.''

He said he had not been contacted by anybody from TVNZ about the comments.

A spokesman for Broadcasting Minister Jonathan Coleman said Henry's remarks were a matter for TVNZ to comment on.

A TVNZ spokeswoman played down the comments.

"The audience tell us over and over again that one of the things they love about Paul Henry is that he's prepared to say the things we quietly think but are scared to say out loud," she said.

"The question of John Key is the same, we want the answer but are too scared to ask."

Broadcasting Standards Authority chief executive Dominic Sheehan said following Breakfast this morning it received a flurry of phone calls from people wanting to complain about Mr Henry's comments.

"The calls were coming in quick smart with people wanting to know how to make a complaint," Mr Sheehan said.

"When something hits public opinion like this we tend to hear about it."

Mr Sheehan said the complaints went straight to the TV channel, and only came back to the Authority if complainants weren't happy with the station's response.

He said he would not know how many complaints TVNZ received.

Sir Anand is in India for the Commonwealth Games. His public affairs manager Antony Paltridge said: "We won't be dignifying that sort of comment with a response."

Labour leader Phil Goff said Sir Anand was as much a New Zealander as he was.

"I would rate him as one of New Zealand's best Governors-General. Anand is a person that grew up in this country, understands this country as well as anybody... a fantastic Governor-General."

The comments were "silly... I think that was Paul Henry being Paul Henry".

- with NZPA

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