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Analysing Henry’s ‘apology’, TVNZ & Key’s mishandling

Written By: - Date published: 2:38 pm, October 6th, 2010 - 56 comments
Categories: accountability, racism, tv - Tags: , ,

We’ve had a lot of coverage of the issue of TVNZ’s bigoted host but I want to chip in with a few points: Paul Henry’s ‘apology’ is in fact a calculated dog whistle to bigots, the blame for Henry goes to a deeper rot in TVNZ, and we have seen proof positive of John Key’s complete inability to lead and stand up for what’s right.

First, let’s go through the text of Paul Henry’s ‘apology’:

“I have something very important to say this morning.

“Yesterday a lot of people got very upset with the comment I made regarding the Governor-General when I was talking with the Prime Minister. You may have seen it. I would like you all to know that I have the greatest respect for Sir Anand Satyanand.

No. You said that he doesn’t look or sound like a New Zealander and we should have people that do in his role.

I don’t know him personally, but I understand his reputation is beyond reproach. He is highly respected in the judicial circle as a former judge and as the Queen’s representative here in New Zealand.

“He has done a very fine job as Governor-General and I am sincerely sorry if I seemed disrespectful to him.

These weasel words again. You didn’t ‘seem’ disrespectful. You were disrespectful. A genuine apology acknowledges wrongdoing, not just the perception of wrongdoing. The dogwhistle in those weasel words is that this is an overreaction by PC brigade.

“It was not what I intended and I certainly didn’t intend to sound racist. It was wrong for me to ask the questions that I did.

Now, it’s the pity angle. You didn’t mean to say it did you, Paul? You’re just an ordinary ‘real New Zealander’ and ‘real New Zealanders’ sometimes make racist comments three times in a row to the Prime Minister on live TV.

“Sir Anand was born in New Zealand, his lineage as far as I can ascertain is far more dignified than mine, which makes him a better candidate for Governor-General than me.

Again, the pity angle. A bait and switch is being set up here. Dogwhistle: ‘Real New Zealander’ Henry is just being put upon by the brown elite who really rule this country.

“Most people think I’m British but the truth is much worse than that. Like the Governor-General I was born in New Zealand. However, I’m at least half what they colloquially call in Europe a Gypo.

I see what you did there. You’re using an offensive term to describe your own ancestry. And if you can be offensive about your own ancestors’ ethnic group, then surely you should be allowed to be racist about others’ too.

“So let me make it quite clear, I will never apologise for causing outrage but I do and will apologise sincerely for causing real hurt and upset to anyone, no matter what their background, who works to make this country a better country.

“So in that spirit I apologise unreservedly to Sir Anand and his family. He is a very distinguished man. I am a Gypo television presenter.”

And the turn around is complete. The G-G is a brown bully beating up on a ‘real New Zealander’ who is (apparently) from an ethnic group who have a long history of being put upon by such high and mighties.

I’m not sure if this disgrace of an ‘apology’ was the final straw or if it was the flood of formal complaints but something changed radically for TVNZ between Monday, the day of Henry’s comments, and Tuesday.

The organisation’s first instinct was to support their ratings monkey. Their first line ‘come on, he’s just saying what you’re all thinking’ was at least as offensive as Henry’s comments and I’m surprised the spin doctor behind it still has their job. By Tuesday, things were so bad that they had to be seen to do something. So, they gave him the lightest punishment they could that wouldn’t be seen as a complete joke: two weeks off without pay. Considering they’re paying the guy nearly a thousand dollars per show, I’m sure it’s not going to break his bank.

TVNZ has failed to instigate an actual disciplinary process and the CEO has ruled out firing Henry. That just goes to show that the company has lost all respect for its role and its audience. They don’t really think Henry did anything wrong. They’ve just given him a slap with a soggy bus-ticket to try to placate the outrage.

Which brings us to Key’s handling of all this. When Henry made the racist comment three times, Key sat there and laughed.

When asked about Henry’s comments later, Key pretended to have not understood them and refused to label them racist. Not a word of support to the mass of offended people.

He declined to call for any punishment for Henry and committed to reappearing on his show. Yet, the next day, once Henry had been suspended, Key agreed that this was the correct punishment.

Funny how Key agrees that whatever the current situation is, that’s what Key thinks is good. Hardly leadership. Cowardly at every step.

Where to now?

Paul Henry needs to be sacked. No broadcaster with respect for itself and its audience can employ him now.

The TVNZ board needs to wake up and start a review of how TVNZ management mis-handled this affair. There is a corporate culture that led to this. The news and current affairs section has fallen to crap in the last decade – it needs to be completely revamped.

The public needs to look at Key, the little man who laughed along while his former National Party mate made racist jokes and realise that this is who Key is: a cowardly little man who can’t lead and just desperately wants to be liked so will go along with whatever anyone says.

56 comments on “Analysing Henry’s ‘apology’, TVNZ & Key’s mishandling ”

  1. Ari 1

    Make sure to re-complain to TVNZ reiterating that Paul Henry has already used up his leniency. You can find their form here: http://tvnz.co.nz/content/869443

    If you haven’t yet officially complained to the Broadcasting Standards Authority, you can do that at the online form here: http://www.bsa.govt.nz/complain-start.php or download a PDF here: http://www.bsa.govt.nz/complaints-intro.php

    (The date of the broadcast was 4/10/2010, and the time Breakfast airs is 6:30am, if you need those for a BSA complaint)

  2. the sprout 2

    “It was not what I intended and I certainly didn’t intend to sound racist.”

    if you review the clip you’ll see at one point Henry says “I’d better stop there because I don’t want to lose my job”

    that would suggest he knew exactly what he was doing and that it was wrong

  3. the sprout 3

    [TVNZ] don’t really think Henry did anything wrong

    TVNZ owe the public a futher apology for saying “Paul Henry just syas what we are all thinking but are too scared to say”.

    That is the subject of another complaint altogether.

    • HitchensFan 3.1

      Oh yes Sprout. Every time I read that I get SOOOOOOOO wound up! How DARE they?????? I don’t know if any of you heard Dame Cath on Checkpoint on Monday but in response to a question from Mary Wilson about that comment from TVNZ, she basically said “well if that’s true, I don’t want to live in a society the majority of whom think like that”

      Ditto. But what that silly cow from TVNZ didn’t realise is that the majority of NZ DON’T think like that, only the ignorant redneck minority to whom bigoted Paul Henry and his ilk appeal.

      TVNZ totally misfired on this one and they need to be brought to account as well.

  4. gobsmacked 4

    Principled view: Paul Henry should be sacked. Obviously.

    Political view: Paul Henry should keep his job, and keep dragging John Key into the shit, and John Key will keep playing along because he only has one setting (grin and pander), and sooner or later (safe bet – sooner) Key will be nodding along with more Henry bigotry, and then having to dig himself out again afterwards, and more and more voters will see him for the empty fake that he is.

    So, high road or low road, it’s win-win.

    • Ari 4.1

      I’m not sure fueling this kind of bad behaviour is ever a “win”, even if it spreads to people who are inconvenient for you. 😛

  5. Lew 5

    Top work, Marty. Cheers.

    L

  6. We do not seem to have learned the lessons of the 1920-30s. It was remarks like this from prominent people that allowed the Holocaust to take place . Racist remarks like this are offensive and are not what we want to hear in Aotearoa.What is more offensive is that the PM sat and giggled at these remarks ,what makes it more offensive still ,is that Key is of Jewish decent.Golda Meyer must be turning in her grave.

    • nzfp 6.1

      Golda Meir (nee Mabovitz Ґольда Мабович) – Mother Israel famous for the racist and fallacious statement “There is no such thing as a Palestinian people… It is not as if we came and threw them out and took their country. They didn’t exist.” Golda can turn over as much as she likes – as far as I (not to mention the vast majority of indigenous Palestinians) are concerned Golda Meir is just as bigoted and racist as Henry.

      Former Israeli Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion (דָּוִד בֶּן-גּוּרִיּוֹן‎, born David Grün) in his book “The Jews and their land” page 292 wrote:

      […] “in 1914 there were 85,000 Jews in the land (12% of the population) […] Once Turkey joined the war on Germany’s side, the majority of Palestinian Jews, being of Russian origin, were regarded as enemy aliens […]“

      With the majority of the 12% Jewish population being of Russian origin means that the overwhelming 88% of the population of Palestine before 1914 as explicitly stated by Ben-Gurion were indigenous Palestinians – many of whom were Muslims and Christians.

      This has nothing to do with events that happened in Europe over half a century ago Pinky! Don’t you dare try to use it to justify Israeli racism and bigotry towards the indigenous Palestinian people – who also had nothing to do with those events in Europe!

      Compare Henry with the head of Yisrael Beitenu (ישראל ביתנו‎, lit. Israel is Our Home) leader Avigdor Lieberman and Henry looks much better.

    • nzfp 6.2

      By the way Pinky why do we need the lessons of the 1920’s and 1930’s Europe when we soo obviously have the lessons of 150 years of British colonization of New Zealand or did you forget about that?

      There are/were Maori villages on the east coast of Aotearoa which had more ordinance, shelling, mortars, rockets, bullets etc lobbed on them per square foot then anywhere on the Western front during WW1.

      We’ve got plenty of lessons learned right here in Aotearoa to know bigotry and racism is bad without needing to go looking for it on the otherside of the world.

      You want to see Israeli style home demolitions, sacred building burnings and evictions right here in good old New Zealand, just watch the free documentary Bastion Point the Untold Story”

      TVNZ and Henry both have plenty of lessons of bigotry and racism right here to learn from.

      • The Voice of Reason 6.2.1

        “Don’t you dare try to use it to justify – who also had nothing to do with those events in Europe!”

        Unless I’m missing something, I don’t think postie said anything of the sort. The final words made the connection between Golda Meier and Key. Both Jewish leaders. I assume Golda Meier publicly opposed anti-jewish bigotry and the comparison suggests Key should have known how to deal with Henry by virtue of his heritage. It’s probably a stretch, but so what?

        I don’t see any justification of ‘Israeli racism and bigotry towards the indigenous Palestinian people’ in that at all. Pretty much the opposite, actually, judging by this:

        “Racist remarks like this are offensive and are not what we want to hear in Aotearoa.”

        I think you are reading waay too much into it, eh.

        • nzfp 6.2.1.1

          Hey VoR,
          No I read it the way Pinky intended it. If he wanted to pick a Jewish holocaust victim that symbolized the tragedy he should have picked Anne Frank, but instead he picked a racist bigot and former Prime Minister of the apartheid state of Israel.

          He did this specifically to attempt to legitimize and humanize her name by identifying her with anti-racist rhetoric. You should really click on the link to Golda Meir’s (nee Mabovitz Ґольда Мабович) name and read the quotes attributed to her. For example, Meir said:

          Any one who speaks in favor of bringing the Arab refugees back must also say how he expects to take the responsibility for it, if he is interested in the state of Israel. It is better that things are stated clearly and plainly: We shall not let this happen.

          Speech to the Knesset, reported in Ner (October 1961)

          Which is in direct contradiction to the conditions imposed on Israel’s admission to the United Nations – specifically UN A/RES/273 (III) which recalls the UN resolutions of 11 December 1948 – specifically UN A/RES/194 (III) which states the requirements of entry into the UN which Israel agreed to – in particular requirement 11:

          11. Resolves that the refugees wishing to return to their homes and live at peace with their neighbours should be permitted to do so at the earliest practicable date, and that compensation should be paid for the property of those choosing not to return and for loss of or damage to property which, under principles of international law or in equity, should be made good by the Governments or authorities responsible;

          Therefore Golda Meir is hardly anybody that should be considered as a bastion of anti-racism.

          Remember that Henry is being criticised for his definition of who isn’t a New Zealander, which includes somebody who was born and educated in New Zealand but looks different to Henry and has a name Henry can’t pronounce.

          Compare that with the statement Golda Meir makes about the indigenous Palestinian refugees of the Nakba of 1947/48 and Golda Meir’s denial of their right to return to their land and to be citizens of their own nation and you have an almost exact corollary. Except that Henry is nowhere near as bigoted or racist.

          • The Voice of Reason 6.2.1.1.1

            Still don’t get it. How do you know what the Pink postman intended? He chose Golda Meier, a Jewish leader, to make a point about John Key, another Jewish leader. Nothing about Palestine in there at all, that I can see. If you’ve got some evidence that posty is in some way anti-Palestinian, then show us. But it ain’t to be found in that comment.

            • nzfp 6.2.1.1.1.1

              Pinky chose a racist bigot as a voice of anti-racism.when he stated “what makes it more offensive still ,is that Key is of Jewish decent.Golda Meyer must be turning in her grave.”

              Golda Meir – by her writing and her quotes and her treatment of the indigenous population of the nation she was a leader of – has demonstrated that she would be doing anything, other than, rolling in her grave because another leader in another country didn’t address some other racist pillocks comments when he had the chance.

              Read and research Golda Meir and all the pain and hardship she brought upon the indigenous people of Palestine – for NOT being real Israelis (c.f. “a real New Zealander”) and then ask yourself why Pinky picked her.

              A far better comment – if comparing Jewish suffering – would be to state “Anne Frank must be turning in her grave”.

              • The Voice of Reason

                Ok, I know what you think about Golda Meier, and she may well be a total bastard, but what has that got to with posty’s comment? There is no reference to Palestine in it at all. Honestly, I think you’ve got this totally wrong. Anyhoo, enuf already and thanks for the history lesson. For what it’s worth, I like the two states, shared Jerusalem idea myself.

                • nzfp

                  VoR,
                  No worries – I prefer a solution similar to what we have here in Aotearoa. A single state with the same rights and privileges, including the right to vote for your leaders – guaranteed to everybody regardless of race, colour, religion, gender or socio-economic position – whether you are an immigrant or indigenous.

                  Israel /Palestine is already a single state, with a single legal body (the Israeli military controls every aspect of Palestine) and a single currency (shekels) – it only needs to guarantee the same rights to everybody regardless of their religion – just like we do.

              • I never realised that I was such a devious bastard !.However better a devious bastard than a rabid ant-Semitic nutter ,dont you think?
                Time for a Yiddish Joke!
                Little Jewish man walkIng across a one lane bridge in war Time Munich ,coming to the end he is confronted by a huge ugly SS man , who looks down on our Jewish friend and spits out Pigdog! Our Little Jewish man steps back bows and say Eisenstein !!

  7. Tanz 7

    pinkpostman, your comment is ridiculous. This was television,where freedom of speech is still allowed. This country has become PC mad, and this proves it. It has nothing to do with the Holocaust, and everything to do with Leftist hysteria. Key will be kicking himself for giggling, but big deal, it’s not a hanging offence!

    • fraser 7.1

      “This was television,where freedom of speech is still allowed. ”

      i think the broadcasting standards act would disagree with you there

      not forgetting of course that he is a paid employee who has to abide by the standards and practices of his workplace.

      are you able to say whatever you want at your work and get to claim “free speech”?

      If you or anyone else exercises their free speech and someone finds it wrong or whatever, arent they then entitled to exercise their own free speech and respond?

      where this strange idea that TV is some sort of wildwest of free speech came from, i have no idea.

    • Bright Red 7.2

      Henry can say what he like. But TVNZ doesn’t have to employ him. That’s the problem. I dont care what racist things Henry says in his own home.

    • Zorr 7.3

      People keep treating “free speech” as a right. It isn’t. It is a responsibility and as such should be treated with respect and not abused.

      • the sprout 7.3.1

        quite.
        rightly enough and for reasons obvious to anyone with an IQ over 100, freedom of speech has never been an absolute right.

        • Pascal's bookie 7.3.1.1

          I’m pretty much a free speech absolutist.

          That said, freedom of speech simply doesn’t come into this debate.

          Henry can say whatever he likes and should face no criminal sanction. If he defames people for example, that’s a civil matter. We are all free to defame people, and those we defame are free to seek damages. Freedom, lovely freedom, we’re soaking in it.

          Likewise, Henry is free to say racist shit and should face no criminal sanction for it. His employer is under no obligation to give him a microphone however. They too have freedom lovely freedom, as do those who disagree with Henry’s antics and want to put commercial pressure on his employer.

      • Ari 7.3.2

        Freedom of speech implying responsibilities doesn’t make it any less of a right, but I agree with the thrust of what you’re saying.

  8. Rharn 8

    Henry’s apology is nothing but a crock. This is self evident when he states, “He has done a very fine job as Governor-General and I am sincerely sorry if I seemed disrespectful to him.” He believes that everyone else is wrong when he ‘excuses’ his comments by ‘seemingly’ being disrespectful to him. If you look carefully at Henry’s past apologies you will see much the same kind of excuse.

    We the public got it wrong but not Henry.

    As for the ‘cop out’ that Henry only says what the public think someone needs tell this plonker that most kiwis are not as ignorant he is.

  9. Maggie 9

    First Whale Oil, now Henry, not a good time for National Party groupies, is it?

  10. Wyndham 10

    Nowhere in all this discussion have I seen sympathy or concern for the poor lass that sits alongside Paul Henry and has to put up with his garbage. I guess that if you are on an astronomical salary then you can force yourself to put up with almost anything but she must find it extremely embarrassing at times.

    Pippa, you have my sympathy!

    • gobsmacked 10.1

      Not mine. People have marched and fought and struggled a hundred different ways to inch society forward, to stand up against bigotry. But waving placards on the street can only go so far. If only they had real power … like a daily appearance on national television.

      Ben Gracewood took a stand. Pippa and the rest just took the cash.

      • the sprout 10.1.1

        agreed gs, she nolonger has my sympathy.
        see my post tomorrow. she’s at best an enabler

    • Ari 10.2

      Oh, everyone who’s forced to work with someone as vile and bigoted as Henry has my intense sympathy, but they also had a responsibility to stand up and say that they couldn’t work in that sort of environment.

  11. Tanz 11

    How come this blog doesn’t care when Hone lets rip with his ‘WMF” comments? You’re just getting at Key and Henry for being rich, white and male.

    [lprent: Are you too incompetent, stupid, or lazy to use the search? If you had then you’d have found a pile of posts that sometimes compliment Harawira and sometimes damn him. It is always embarrassing to see someone such as yourself do such a idiotic screwup. Perhaps you should look at raising yourself to at least to the basic standard. ]

    • Colonial Viper 11.2

      lolz not another word needed.

    • Nzfp 11.3

      Hey Tanz,
      Hone Harawira’s comments are irrelevant to this discussion and make no difference at all to the comments the racist bigot Henry made!

      Capcha: police

      :-/

      • Tanz 11.3.1

        They’re not irrelavent, because t hey show the twistedness of the Left. It’s okay for one guy to make racist comments, as long as he is of the right creed, but it’s not okay for a Pakeha male to make racist comments., simply because he is considered right-wing white man. So, you have one set of rules ofr Hone, and another for Paul. Totally relavent to the argument, but the Left is just dishonest. I can be called a ‘white mf”, that’s okay, as long as the rght person says it. I’m glad I sit on the right side of the fence!

        • Logie97 11.3.1.1

          Tanz – you’re hoisted on your own petard there you fool. The whole thread of this is about Henry’s racism – and in your second sentence you have agreed that Henry’s comments are racist.

          Q.E.D

        • nzfp 11.3.1.2

          Actually they are irrelevant because we’re not talking about Harawira. We are talking about the racist comments that Henry made. If you wish to compare the comments, then fine go ahead – but it still does not lessen severity of the comments that Henry made.

          However I believe you are attempting to employ a debating technique – a logical fallacy called Tu quoque (“you too”). This is the fallacy of defending an error in one’s reasoning by pointing out that one’s opponent has made the same error. An error is still an error, regardless of how many people make it.

          In this instance you are attempting to justify Henry’s racist and bigoted world view by pointing out the comments Harawira made. Hence Harawira’s comments are irrelevant.

          Do you agree or disagree with Henry?
          How do you defend your opinion?

          You are entitled to your opinion – but if you wish to express it you must be prepared to defend it – and/or change your mind/opinion as you learn more. Anything else is simply sophistry and pointless argument.

  12. BLiP 12

    Hi everyone,

    I have asked and been given permission to email you to apologise. I have made an horrendous error of judgement and I want to apologise for the offence I have caused to you personally and the embarrassment I have caused to you as employees of TVNZ.

    By way of background, I viewed the comments Paul Henry made online after being asked by NZPA for a comment for their afternoon papers deadline. In my haste I didn’t reflect upon the wider aspects of what he said, I just focused on the question he asked John Key and emailed a quote to NZPA.

    This is not an excuse it is just by way of background, my comments were wrong and I take total responsibility for my mistake.

    In hindsight it seems unbelievable that I didn’t seek a second opinion from Peter or Megan or even pause for breath but I didn’t and only have myself to blame.

    I am deeply upset that my comments have impacted the reputation of TVNZ, which I know all of you work so hard every day to protect and enhance.

    I’m in Corporate Affairs, the department that’s charged with protecting the reputation of the company, so in my view that makes my error of judgment so much worse.

    I have offered my resignation to Peter Parussini.

    Although he is particularly upset about my comments he has graciously declined to accept it.

    However, I would really like you to know that I am deeply sorry. I was wrong. I apologise unreservedly for the offence I caused to so many of you inside the company and also the wider community.

    Yours sincerely

    Andi Brotherston

    • Colonial Viper 12.1

      Good to see someone at TVNZ takes their professional reputation seriously.

      • BLiP 12.1.1

        Yep, and I’m sure its about professional reputation rather than anything genuinely personal. Andi is an ex Maxim Institute intern and PR munchkin for the inSensible Sentencing Trust – that’s one strike – she did actually say what she said – that’s two strikes – and she employed the classic public relations tactic of using the word “background” instead of “excuse” – that’s two and a half a strikes. Also, there’s something just a bit too cute about the “leaking” of the apology . . . hmmmm.

        • Anne 12.1.1.1

          @ BLiP.
          Bang on the money!

        • Colonial Viper 12.1.1.2

          Right. Now that I read her ‘apology’ again its clearer that she is not apologising for her comments tarring all NZ with a racist brush, as much as expressing regret for her clumsiness as a capitalist foot soldier who let her corporate team down.

          • jimmy 12.1.1.2.1

            Lol she had my sympathy until I read Blips post. And cheers for highlighting that ‘background’ bit, we all need to know PR translations like that.

    • hateatea 12.2

      Now THAT is a real apology. Owning responsibility for her actions and not trying to use weasel words to shift the blame. She has risen in my estimation

    • felix 13.1

      Well spotted.

      What stood out for me though was Rick’s contention that suspension is rare in broadcasting (with the implication that because it’s rare it’s a severe punishment.)

      Using that logic he could have banned Henry from eating ham sandwiches at work and claimed the same.

  13. Tanz 14

    You have one set of rules for one race, and one set of rules for the other. I can be called a ‘white m*********’, that’s okay, but a right-wing white male has to button his lip. Talk about double standards, and typical of the twisted Left/. One rule for one lot, another for the other. Typical!

    • The Voice of Reason 14.1

      Jaysus, did you not see the comment from LP above? Bloody Tories, all trickle down, no scroll up. Typical!

    • nzfp 14.2

      See my response to you HERE Tanz.

    • Marty G 14.3

      no racism is OK, Tanz.

      I damned Harawira’s comments.

      Those who didn’t argued, not that racism is ok, but that his comments were about the actions of particular people who happened to be ‘white’ and weren’t against ‘white’ people in general.

      Like I say, I disagreed and criticised Harawira extensively.

      If you can’t debate without accusing your opponents of things they didn’t do (or without resorting to the ‘they did it too’ fallacy) then you’re going to be made mincemeat of in these threads.

      As you have been here today.

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