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TVNZ’s Paul Henry slammed over Governor-General remarks

Monday, 4 October 2010 | By Cyril Washbrook

Paul Henry and Pippa Wetzell, the hosts of TVNZ's Breakfast (Source: TVNZ)

Paul Henry and Pippa Wetzell, the hosts of TVNZ's Breakfast (Source: TVNZ)

Paul Henry, the presenter of TVNZ's Breakfast, has been forced to apologise after belittling New Zealand's Governor-General on this morning's programme.

Henry's remarks came during an interview with Prime Minister John Key. The Breakfast host questioned whether Sir Anand Satyanand was "even a New Zealander", going on to declare that the next Governor-General - who will commence his or her duties next year - should be "more like a New Zealander".

"Are you going to choose a New Zealander who looks and sounds like a New Zealander this time? Are we going to go for someone who is more like a New Zealander this time?"

Sir Anand, a former lawyer and judge, was born and raised in Auckland to parents of Indian and Pacific descent. A spokeperson for the Governor-General dismissed Henry's remarks, saying that Sir Anand "won't be dignifying that sort of comment with a response".

In a statement issued mid-afternoon, Henry said:

"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."

But the response of TVNZ and Henry to the outcry has already raised eyebrows. Henry's statement was not circulated until nearly 4pm (NZDT), long after the comments began to attract condemnation from politicians and other public figures, including Mr Key, Labour's leader Phil Goff and the race relations commissioner Joris de Bres.

Earlier on in the day, TVNZ had launched a spirited defence of Henry's 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.

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

When contacted by The Spy Report after Henry's apology had been issued, TVNZ declined to comment further, saying that it had now commenced "the formal complaints process".

Henry has run into hot water on several occasions in the past. Earlier this year, he was condemned by the Broadcasting Standards Authority (BSA) for comments in which he called Susan Boyle a "retard".

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