27 Jan 2021

Banks’ blurts bring boot from broadcaster

From Mediawatch, 7:48 pm on 27 January 2021

MediaWorks has replaced former politician John Banks as a talkback host and apologised for his comments condemning “stone age” Māori culture and warning “these people will be coming through your bathroom window.” But there was plenty more in his programme to offend listeners and alarm advertisers.

John Banks addresing the media after the Court of Appeal cancelled an order he should be retried on a charge relating to election expenses

John Banks addresing the media after the Court of Appeal cancelled an order he should be retried on a charge relating to election expenses Photo: RNZ / Diego Opatowski

The controversial comments came deep into Magic Talk Mornings on Wednesday when a caller named Richard told John Banks Māori were a “stone age people with a stone age culture.” They were “genetically predisposed” to crime, alcohol addiction and “educational underperformance,” he said. 

John Banks did not contradict him. Instead he told Richard his kids would have to “get used to that stone-aged culture.” 

“If it doesn’t change, these people will be coming through your bathroom window,” he added.

Banks later apologised on air and claimed he had not understood Richard’s comments. 

“I also made some generic negative statements about Māori people and practices that could have been misconstrued as racist. I’m not racist. I’m not racist,” John Banks added.

When the comments were aired on social media and companies including Spark, Vodafone and Kiwibank withdrew advertising support. Mediaworks announced Banks would be replaced by Magic Talk’s night-time host Leah Panapa. 

Richard’s call - and Banks’ response - was prompted by Banks’ claims outgoing Oranga Tamariki boss Grainne Moss had been forced from her job by influential Māori.

“‘She’s a honky from the UK and we don’t want her’. They wouldn’t use that terminology but that’s what they believe and that’s what they would say to each other over their cups of tea,“ John Banks said. 

But unprompted he also said this earlier in the programme:

“I think Pacific Island families do a better job generally of raising their kids than Māori  families do – although there’s a disproportionate and huge number of young Pacific Island people in our prisons. 

If you want to talk about colonialism the baseline is this: allowing these people to drink as much booze as they like when they like, to smoke dope any time of the day and to have all their problems attended to by the government in the form of social welfare check has put them on a slippery slope. We’ve got a look to ourselves for the solution”

Called out by the callers

84 year-old Anne told him he should have condemned Richard’s comments immediately 

“I apologise to you and the listening audience - and it isn’t true,” Banks replied. 

He claimed he knew many intelligent Māori  including National Party deputy leader Dr Shane Reti.

“I’m asking all the educated Māori  – and they are listening today in their thousands - to stand up and be counted,” he said. 

But if they were, they would have heard his dismissive response to a listener’s text expressing disgust soon after.

“What’s disgusting? Everyone’s had a fair run and can say what they like as long as they believe it,” John Banks told listeners.   

He also laughed out loud on air when a listener condemned him for calling Māori “those people” and “them” 

“Oh dear, oh dear. Oh my God. I don’t call Māori ‘them,’” he said, claiming he had hundreds of supportive messages during the show. 

When Shaun in Kaikohe told John Banks he had his “wires crossed” John Banks laid into “bad buggers” in Kaitaia. 

“We’ve got a substrata of people that are completely out of control. The only control they have is the control they get when they’re out of control on electric Puha,” he told Shaun. 

“But listen  - I want you to know we will never denigrate Māori here. We live with them, they are great humans of the world and mostly they are fabulous parents doing a good job,” he said. 

“But we have to be honest with each other, Shaun,” he added. 

On a mission

During what was a two-week stint filling in for regular host Peter Williams, Banks re-cast the slot last week as ‘Truth Radio.’ 

“The media are biased,” he told listeners on Monday. 

“The ‘left’ media control New Zealand thinking. When you’re tuned to Magic Talk Mornings and I’m filling in, it’s Truth Radio. It’s factual, it’s very educational and it’s unbiased,” he said. 

“Some of the other stations - on State Radio for example - it’s total indoctrination,” he said. 

In that show, John Banks claimed New York’s murder rate had gone up 90 per cent in 2020, which is untrue. 

He also said The Democrats planned to outlaw purchasing body armour  - the sort of  policy which would make people pine for the return of Donald Trump, he said.  

In fact a single locally-elected Democrat representative in one district of New York has proposed a bill to outlaw the use of body armour by armed criminals. 

It’s far from the first time John Banks has outraged the public as a part-time talkback host. 

Northland MP John Carter called John Banks on Radio Pacific in 1995 claiming to be Māori  bloke called ‘Hone’ - and posing as Māori  to voice opposition to the Government's fiscal envelope for Treaty of Waitangi claims.

On the 1990s John Banks told a Radio Pacific caller who suggested  - in graphic language - gay men should be impaled with barbed wire that it would be “a waste of good barbed wire." 

Wikipedia records he denounced homosexuality on air in 2005 like this. 

"It's a filthy little country we're developing here... it's quite disgusting. I mean the Koran... wouldn't tolerate that. In the Koran it says that those sorts of acts should be met by the death penalty, by stoning."

His own Christian beliefs got an airing last week.

“I think it’s an act of God  - not the government - that has saved us from the terrifying (Covid-19) ordeal that the UK citizens have unfolding all around them,” he told Magic Talk listeners.

“I can’t just be Jacinda Ardern and the government  - it has to be an act of God,” he said. 

“84-year-olds do make a lot of sense,” John Banks said on Wednesday, praising his critical caller Anne. 

“I’ll be 84 soon and I’ll still be making a lot of sense,“ he said, closing the show.  

He won't be doing it on Magic Talk - or any other radio station that values its reputation  - and its audience - anytime soon.  

MediaWorks recently installed CEO Cam Wallace emailed staff on Thursday to say Banks would not be back on air while he led the company - a decisive executive move.

But John Banks going rogue wasn’t really a bug in the talk radio system - but a feature.

With the slogan the "new voice of talk radio," Magic Talk's forerunner Radio Live was launched as an alternative to popular commercial talk station Newstalk ZB and its roster of hosts who lean to the right.

But since MediaWorks rebadged it as rebadged as Magic Talk last year, it has become more contrarian and cranky in tone - to the point where John Banks was deemed a logical choice to fill in for Peter Williams over summer - in spite of his track record. 

CEO Cam Wallace will now be aware - if he wasn't already - that approach attracts a similar audience, callers and creates controversy - but it also repels other listeners, commercial partners and advertisers. 

And it makes breaches of broadcassting standards more likely, which in turn forces the company to either stand behind the approach - and its hosts - in the name of freedom of expression, or to condemn it and apologise.