Dikshit giggles: New Henry drama

Last updated 13:47 06/10/2010
Paul Henry and, inset, Sheila Dikshit
UNCONTROLLABLE LAUGHTER: Paul Henry and, inset, Sheila Dikshit.

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TVNZ has come in for fresh criticism over its handling of Breakfast host Paul Henry's Indian slurs after it continued to prominently feature a clip on its website in which he ridicules the name of Commonwealth Games troubleshooter Sheila Dikshit.

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

TVNZ has received at least four complaints about the clip, in which Henry deliberately mispronounces Dikshit, despite being told it is said 'Dixit". He also says the name "Dick Shit" is "so appropriate" because she is Indian.

Sheila Dikshit is Delhi's chief minister and was called in to fix the problem-plagued Commonwealth Games preparations.

New Zealand Indian Central Association president Paul Singh Bains said the fact TVNZ was still promoting the clip on its website showed it had "totally lost the plot" and was insensitive to the offence Henry had caused.

He said that had been worsened by subsequent comments in which Henry said Governor-General Sir Anand Satyanand did not look or sound like a New Zealander.

The Dikshit clip was promoted on the Video Extras section of TVNZ's website under the heading "Paul Henry laughs about the name Dikshit".

It appears to have been removed within about an hour of Stuff reporting its continued presence had upset members of the Indian community.

Messages streamed in to the TVNZ website today, and while Henry has generally been taking a slating over his comments, there were also messages of support from people referring to complaining "do-gooders".

Some said people were being too politically correct and that they would not watch Breakfast until Henry returned, while others said they had already switched off and wouldn't tune in again if Henry returned.

In the clip, Henry deliberately mispronounces Mrs Dikshit's name, despite being told at the outset that it is pronounced 'Dixit".

"The dip shit woman. God, what's her name? Dick Shit. Is it Dick Shit ... it looks like 'Dick Shit'," Henry says through bouts of laughter.

"It's so appropriate, because she's Indian, so she'd be dick-in-shit wouldn't she, do you know what I mean? Walking along the street ... it's just so funny."

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Mr Bains said he accepted that Mrs Dikshit's name and other Indian names could be difficult to pronounce, but Henry had moved beyond that to ridicule.

He said TVNZ appeared insensitive to the offence caused by leaving the clip on its website, and it should have sacked Henry from the Breakfast role after his comments about Sir Anand.

"TVNZ have lost the plot. I honestly think the credibility of TVNZ is down the tubes through this.

"He should be sanctioned more than that. He should be eliminated from that spot. He should be sacked and given another role somewhere else.

"He has an attitude about Indians and all other ethnicities for that matter. If we sound different, if we look different, he thinks there's no place for us in New Zealand."

TVNZ spokeswoman Andi Brotherston said the website was an independent news organisation.

"[It] is part of TVNZ's news and current affairs department, which has its editorial independence enshrined in legislation."

She would not say whether TVNZ chief executive Rick Ellis, who suspended Henry from his Breakfast role and is TVNZ's editor-in-chief, had control over the content on the website.

Greens human rights spokesman Keith Locke said the clip, first aired last Friday, was a "particularly graphic illustration of Paul Henry's cultural insensitivity".

"He went on and on being offensive to the chief minister of Delhi by mispronouncing her name in a crude manner.

"The latest incident with the Governor-General shows that he has learnt nothing past criticism of his racist commentary. Ten days in the sin bin is unlikely to change that, so perhaps he should be given a red card."

The Herald on Sunday reported this week that TVNZ had received four complaints about the Dikshit piece.

It has received more than 600 about Henry's comments about Sir Anand.

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