Right from the outset I want to make it clear that I like Paul Henry, I like his irreverent style, I rate him as a broadcaster and from the couple of times I have met him he seems like a nice bloke.
That, however, does not take away from the reprehensible theme behind what Mr. Henry said yesterday. Questioning Sir Anand Satyanand's place of origin, and lets be honest, colour...then relating it to being a 'real New Zealander' isn't anything other than racism.
'Are you going to choose a New Zealander who looks and sounds like a New Zealander this time?' asked Henry yesterday morning. So a man of Indian ancestry, who was born in this country, was educated in this country and has spent his whole life serving the people of New Zealand doesn't 'looks and sounds like a New Zealander' to Paul Henry...so what does?
One can only assume that when he refers to Pakeha and Maori people, I wonder how that makes the hundreds of thousands of people in New Zealand feel who don't comfortably fit into that definition of a 'real New Zealander'
In the last half hour Paul Henry has been suspended by TVNZ, for two weeks, without pay. This has been done after this morning's on air apology, so some would ask the question why?
Yesterday soon after the comment Paul Henry told to Stuff.co.nz when asked why he thought Sir Anand did not look and sound like a New Zealander he responded: 'As I say, the comments that I made were perfectly clear, and I have no particular interest in discussing them any further.'
Then in the afternoon there was a press release by TVNZ which quoted Henry apologising for 'any offense I may have caused.'
Then for some unknown reason, they issued another press release that said '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.'
So back to the issue of why he was suspended today.
Paul Henry stuffed up yesterday, it's more than talking about a lady with a moustache, or a singer being a little retarded, it's a cast iron example of racism...whether intentional or not...on our public owned broadcaster. It is unacceptable and should have dealt with yesterday. I agree with Janet Wilson who blogged this morning 'The essence of crisis media management is that, when you are in the wrong confess and repent, admit it fully, apologize sincerely and honestly, and you will generally achieve a measure of redemption.'
So why was he suspended today?
To an extent Paul Henry is now suffering even more than he should of because of TVNZ's poor handling of this situation, at 9.10am yesterday morning, whether he liked it or not there should have been a full, sincere and final apology from Paul Henry issued from TVNZ. TVNZ should have issued an unreserved apology of their own and distanced themselves from the comments, yesterday TVNZ backed Paul Henry's sytle...and now Henry is suffering because of it.
If Paul Henry and TVNZ had thrown themselves at the feet of the public yesterday, and asked for forgiveness I don't think he'd be suspended today, but when you have a rouge broadcaster, and you employ him, in part, for the controversy that comes with him (it rates!) then you also have to have good practices in place when the rouge goes too far. It seems TVNZ didn't have this...maybe now they do.