Paul Henry resigns

Last updated 19:09 10/10/2010
Hamish Coleman-Ross

Paul Henry's racist remarks on TVNZ's Breakfast show.

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Prime Minister John Key says Paul Henry's resignation has brought "closure".

"This episode has been sad and regrettable," he said through a spokeswoman.

"Mr Henry's resignation brings closure to the matter and we should now put it behind us," he said.

Henry resigned from Television New Zealand today after he became the subject of several hundred complaints to the broadcaster over racist remarks he made about Governor General Sir Anand Satyanand and his mocking of the name of Delhi Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit.

On last Monday's Breakfast Show he had asked Mr Key whether Sir Anand, whose five-year term ends next year, was even a New Zealander.

As that controversy erupted, earlier remarks Henry had made mocking the name of Ms Dikshit resurfaced.

Green Party MP Keith Locke tonight also welcomed Henry's resignation.

"The huge public reaction to his discriminatory comments made it impossible for him to return to Breakfast as a credible host.

"We now want TVNZ management to review its guidelines, so that its presenters all appeal to our intelligence rather than cater to the prejudices that still exist in our society," he said.

TVNZ chief executive Rick Ellis said Henry had decided to step down voluntarily.

"I think it is a credit to Paul that he took this decision on his own," he told TV One News.

Mr Ellis said Henry's comments had damaged TVNZ's reputation and could have put off advertisers.

"I think if this had continued in the days ahead then we could be under some stress from advertisers.

In a statement, he apologised to those who had been offended by "Paul's inappropriate on-air comments".

"I will be apologising in person to the Governor-General. I also apologise to the Indian community, both here and in India."

Henry said he was "grateful" to the thousands of people who had offered him their support.

"It is no longer practical in the current environment for me to do the job I was employed to do, and have so enjoyed doing," he said tonight.

"It is also difficult for TVNZ to get on with the business of being a first class broadcaster as long as I remain."

Mr Key said earlier today he would be appearing on tomorrow's TVNZ Breakfast Show as usual.

"It's not the Paul Henry show. It's the TVNZ Breakfast Show, and it's important to remember that.

"I actually face questions from lots of viewers which are pretty off the wall as well.

"These things sometimes get a life of their own and this one certainly has," he said.

On Friday the Indian Government told New Zealand High Commissioner Rupert Holborow it was annoyed at the Dikshit comments and Mr Holborow was handed a demarche, a formal protest. He also issued an apology to India.

Mr Key said today he did not think the comments would affect international relations.

"People should recognise that broadcasters and commentators say things all over the world, and if we took offence to those comments all the time, we'd cease to have any diplomatic relations.

"It's what comes out of the Government's mouths rather than the broadcasters' mouths that's most important."

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Mr Key said he did not think New Zealand was a racist country.

"It's a multi-cultural society but there are a range of views out there. What one person deems to be racist another person might not. But personally I think New Zealand is much stronger for being a multi-cultural society," he said.

Sir Anand is in Delhi for the Games, and addressed the New Zealand team on the eve of the opening ceremony.

He was also the subject of comments about his weight by radio host Michael Laws, following the media attention around Henry's insults.

Mr Key added that he thought Law's comments were "totally inappropriate".

"There has to be respect and dignity shown to the governor general and Michael Laws has failed to do that.

"There is no place for personal attacks. Constitutionally, it's extremely difficult for the governor-general to defend himself and I personally believe that Michael was out of line and he should offer an apology," Mr Key said.

Mr Key added that Sir Anand was not feeling particularly angry or bitter about the comments.

"It's very difficult for him to get involved and he's done the right thing. He's done very well in representing New Zealand in Delhi and his presence there has been warmly received.

"But he would rather not be embroiled in this sort of situation," Mr Key said.

- NZPA

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