4 Oct 2010

Paul Henry apologises to Governor-General

6:31 pm on 4 October 2010

TVNZ presenter Paul Henry has apologised for comments he made on Monday's Breakfast programme about the Governor-General, Sir Anand Satyanand.

Just before 4pm he released a statement saying he sincerely apologises to Sir Anand for any offence he may have caused.

Interviewing Prime Minister John Key about the process of choosing the next Governor-General, Henry had asked if Sir Anand is even a New Zealander.

When Mr Key replied that he is, Henry asked: "Are we going to go for someone who's more like a New Zealander this time?"

Pointing out that Sir Anand was born and raised in New Zealand, the president of the Fijian Club, Alton Shameem, said earlier that Henry often makes inappropriate and racist remarks, and that TVNZ should replace him with someone who can do the job without making fun of people.

Key says he was taken aback

Mr Shameem also said the Prime Minister should have been more assertive in his defence of Sir Anand.

Mr Key says he was taken aback by Henry's remarks about the Governor-General. He won't be drawn on whether he thought the comments were racist, but does say that Henry is just plain wrong.

The president of Wellington's Fiji Indian Association, Vinod Kumar, says TVNZ should reprimand Henry. He says his group is considering making a formal complaint to the Broadcasting Standards Authority.

Labour leader Phil Goff says Sir Anand is as Kiwi as Paul Henry, and he'd rate him as one of the best governor-generals New Zealand has ever had.

TVNZ says it has received two formal complaints about the matter.

'Appalling ignorance' revealed

Race Relations Commissioner Joris de Bres says Henry's comments were extremely disrespectful and reveal an appalling ignorance about New Zealanders.

Mr de Bres says he is disturbed that someone in Henry's position would make the comments, which imply, he says, that anyone of Indian origin cannot be a New Zealander and shouldn't hold public office.

The public affairs manager for Government House, Antony Paltridge, says Sir Anand - who is on official business in India - won't be dignifying the comments with a response.

Dame Cath surprised at PM's reaction

A former Governor-General says she is astonished the Prime Minister didn't challenge Paul Henry over his comments.

Dame Cath Tizard, who was Governor-General between 1990 and 1996, told Checkpoint she is surprised Mr Key let Henry get away with his comments.