8 Oct 2010

India summons NZ envoy over Henry's 'racist remarks'

12:55 am on 8 October 2010

India has summoned New Zealand's High Commissioner to protest against what it says were "racist remarks" made by Television New Zealand presenter Paul Henry.

India says Henry deliberately mispronounced and ridiculed the surname of Delhi Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit while presenting the Breakfast programme last week.

Ms Dikshit has been in the news after being asked in September to take charge of the floundering Commonwealth Games preparations.

High Commissioner Rupert Holborow was called in by the Indian foreign ministry and handed a demarche, or formal protest, on Thursday.

"It was conveyed to him that the government strongly and unequivocally denounces the racist remarks of the journalist in question. These remarks are totally unacceptable to India," a statement from the foreign ministry said.

In a statement, Mr Holborow says he expressed "deep regret" at the comments which were "culturally insensitive, inappropriate and vulgar".

Radio New Zealand could not reach TVNZ for comment on Thursday night on the latest incident involving Henry.

Henry suspended for Governor-General comments

TVNZ has suspended Henry without pay from the programme, not for the comments about Ms Dikshit, but for remarks he made earlier this week about New Zealand's Governor-General.

During an interview on Monday's programme, Henry asked Prime Minister John Key if Sir Anand Satyanand 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?"

Sir Anand Satyanand was born in Auckland. Henry has since offered an unreserved apology for causing any offence or hurt, saying he has the highest respect for the Governor-General.

However, the presenter says he would never apologise for causing outrage.