Paul Henry defends his right to act like a child

Written By: - Date published: 12:00 pm, March 30th, 2009 - 31 comments
Categories: scoundrels - Tags:

Anna at The Handmirror has written a good post on Paul Henry and his obnoxious glee in denigrating someone for their appearance. I’m going to quote it in full for wider attention.

TVNZ has received a number of complaints about Paul Henry, following his making fun of Greenpeace’s Stephanie Mills for her facial hair. But this champion of free speech is unrepentant and refuses to apologise to the many people he has offended and upset.

In his capacity as a maker of profound social observations, Henry also added, “The thing that interested me wasn’t the fact that she had facial hair. It was the fact that everyone can be amazed by it, everyone can be thinking about it, everyone can see it as an interesting thing, but no one can say anything”. Good stuff, Paul. Thought-provoking. Could it be that most people, by the time they reach adulthood, develop a sort of filtering mechanism that stops them from saying every single dumb thing that pops into their heads?

The highlight of the linked article is the beautifully understated comment of the University of Otago’s Dr Annabel Cooper, who said of Henry, “They should get grown-ups to host those shows”. But the thing is, if someone’s made it to Henry’s age without working out why belittling and hurting other people is a bad idea, there’s really not much hope for them.

Could the women on the right of the political spectrum please educate this chump before he digs himself further into a hole? Sure, he represents a strain (well a stain) of misogynist opinion that supports this type of attitude. It really hurts the National party that he is so fond of (he stood for National in 1999 but lost to Georgina Beyer).

As a supporter of the left, I’m happy for that. As a supporter of women entering public roles, I think that it is a strong inducement to avoid putting yourself up for the type of public policy debate that Henry accurately reflects. Don’t engage with the issues, resort to whisper campaigns and denigration, especially against women.

David Farrar at Kiwiblog has just been pointing this out in relation to the long whisper campaign against Helen Clark and Peter Davis, but with the usual inevitable misogynist, homophobic and fact-free reaction. David put a great effort into moderating the ‘debate’, so it is almost readable. But I get the impression that Paul Henry would fit in well on the sewer.

You’d have thought that this type of thinking disappeared long ago as women entered into public roles. But then, you could always rely on Henry to faithfully reflect the sewer to get ratings.

Update: Julie at the HandMirror points to a roundup on this issue (and my post errors). She has some specific actions that you can do to correct this travesty of broadcasting.

31 comments on “Paul Henry defends his right to act like a child”

  1. Julie 1

    Thanks for the linkage, and the coverage of this issue. You might want to edit your post so that your “woman” says “women” in a few places 😉

    I’ve been doing a bit of a round-up of all the posting on the issue that I’ve found here:
    Including info on who to email with any concerns you might happen to have.

    • lprent 1.1

      Thanks – fixed.

      Lyn is always telling me that I need to improve my writing errors. I’m glad she didn’t see these before correction.

  2. BLiP 2

    I’ve tried to avoid commenting on this issue but now just can’t help myself.

    You great bunch of dim-witted suckers – this is all peripheral bullshit – Paul Henry is a twat – so what if he made fun of someone, surprise surprise and woopdeedoo.

    Who can tell me what Stehanie Mills actually said and why aren’t we debating that, why hasn’t the same energy that’s gone into this sideshow been spent on the real issue?

    • lprent 2.1

      I’d agree that the issues she raised were important. However so was the way that Paul Henry attempted to trivialize those. If he succeeds in making this the norm, then the issues raised in public and broadcast will always be submerged in this type of adolescent denigration.

      It is preferable to make sure now that this doesn’t happen.

    • r0b 2.2

      Henry’s behaviour is not entirely irrelevant BLiP. He, and those that take joy in his taunting (“oh it’s just a bit of fun”), are part of the culture of bullying that is such a real problem in NZ (and probably contributes to our high youth suicide rate).

      Mills did very well (of course) to use the issue to bring further attention to the issue she was speaking about, the compensation from the French government for victims of nuclear testing in the Pacific.

  3. Simon-5 3

    [lprent: Banned for life means you don’t comment here. Now you’re starting to annoy me. I’m going to start adding your comments to the anti-spam engines used by most blogs.]

  4. kino flo 4

    On a tangential note, am I the only one who has a problem with the way Paul Henry’s failed National Party candidacy in Wairarapa has been used? Why have so many observers made a point of the successful candidate’s (Georgina Beyer) gender identity? Beyer’s identity seems to be some sort of stick to beat Henry over the head with, rather than a successful politician in her own right.

    • lprent 4.1

      Ummm I didn’t even consider that – what got me about that election was how strongly the Wairarapa electorate rejected him as a candidate. Georgina obviously did a good job campaigning in 1999. But what was interesting was the party vs electorate votes for National.

      Damn, isn’t responding, otherwise I’d point out exactly how poor a candidate Henry was.

  5. Julie 5

    kino flo I completely agree and I’ve been v disappointed that many have gone there on this issue 🙁

  6. infused 6

    Actually, it was a handful of complaints, probably most from here.

  7. Nick 7

    Thanks for your list Julie (at If TVNZ has begun an investigation, then a few more emails in Rick Ellis’ and Heritage Hotels’ inboxes should help get the point accross that many of us are well and truly over Henry.

  8. Kevin Welsh 8

    Personally, I am looking forward to:

    His interview with Jerry Brownlie where he says “did you notice how FAT that guy was”?

    His interview with Rony Ryall “Is that guy GAY or what”?

    His interview with John Key “Do you see the SIZE of that bugle”?

    His interview with Nick Smith “That guy is batshit MAD”?

    But then… we all know that this isn’t going to happen. PH is just a failed MP wannabee who gets his jollies denigrating others. I look forward to his downfall with glee, the day his skeletons are revealed

  9. QoT 9

    I think one aspect of bringing up Paul Henry’s loss to Georgina Beyer is that he didn’t just run and lose. He ran, and said some fucking awful (but so predictably HIM) things, including the classic “In my life, I’ve done a great many interesting things, though it’s true to say I am still male. You say Georgina is a serious person. Well, she’s a transsexual. Do the two things necessarily go together?”

    I agree that turning his electoral defeat into a gigantic masculinity-impairing joke is not hugely relevant to this issue; I just get stumped with “how the hell do you go from saying THAT into being some kind of respected TV commentator?”

  10. Evidence-Based Practice 10

    I wonder which pseudonym Paul Henry writes under on Kiwiblog?

  11. Sally Wong 11

    I think he should be admired for saying those things that everyone else is too afraid to say. It’s nice to know however that the liberal hippie police are always watching his back.

    • Tigger 11.1

      Diane Foreman, is that you?

      Look, if you approve of this sort of behaviour then I doubt we’ll be bffs anytime soon…and I’m soooo bored of talking about Paul Henry who really doesn’t deserve any attention at the best of times but come on! Admired?

      Henry shouldn’t be admired because – even leaving aside EVERYTHING else – they (a) invited this woman on their show to talk about an important issue (and therefore owed her some level of respect – I mean, who treats their guests like this?) and (b) he made fun of her only after she had left (and thus could not reply or defend herself).

      Henry isn’t just not be be admired – he’s a prime example of a repulsive, spineless coward. The right is littered with them.

    • QoT 11.2

      Yeah, Sally, it takes ~*real courage*~ to hassle a woman for having facial hair.

      Via reading out an email someone else sent in.

      To quote Bill Hicks, “Crowd murmurs, ‘Jesus, what balls!'”

  12. Julie 12

    I think if there’s one thing we have learned from all this Sally it’s that there are plenty of people out there who are not too afraid to say judgemental and irrelevant things about a woman’s appearance.

  13. Matthew Pilott 13

    I love it – acting like a child is now something heroic for the Right, as Sally Wong points out. Sally – you might want to re-prioritise what is important, if one adult attacking another’s appearance gets you off.

    What is it that makes people think that doing something a 6-year old couldn’t get away with in primary school is suddenly so bad-ass

    No one is attacking his right to say such things, though the Right is clearly too star-struck to see that in this instance

  14. justthefacts 14

    “Henry isn’t just not be be admired – he’s a prime example of a repulsive, spineless coward. The right is littered with them”


    What about those from the left who accuse others of being

    Chinless scarf wearers
    Feral Inbreds
    Cancerous and corrosive

    What do you call them apart from (ex) Prime Minister?

    Your hypocrisy is breathtaking.

  15. Tigger 15

    Well considering that I’ve never actually used any of those phrases I doubt it’s fair for me to carry the cross of ‘breathtaking hypocrisy’ but you’re clearly upset and so I retract the words ‘The right is littered with them.’ It’s an unhelpful generalisation anyway and not precisely germane to the issue at hand – which is skewering Henry for being a vile toad.

  16. Michael 16

    Sounds as childish as Michael Cullen saying we lost eat that after the 1999 elections, grow up lefties, what comes around goes around. Personally I think she still thought it was still Movember.

  17. toad 17

    kino flo saidWhy have so many observers made a point of the successful candidate’s (Georgina Beyer) gender identity?

    I suspect it is because Paul Henry made an issue of gender identity, or at least sex-role phenotypes, in his obnoxious perfomance denigrating Stephanie Mills’ appearance. Given his comments, I suspect it probably still haunts him that a trannie got elected ahead of him back in 1999.

    Tigger: I normally support your comments, and support the thrust of them on this thread. But you might want to re-think this one:

    …which is skewering Henry for being a vile toad.

    I take deep offence to any metaphor relating Paul Henry to me.

    Loved Catherine Delahunty’s “scrotum shrivelling” reference though!

  18. Jeff Stone 18

    It is wrong to apologise for the mistakes of others, but in this case I feel I have to. I am sorry to all women out there on behalf on all evolved male human beings who reside in this country. Some of us aren’t misogynistic cretins, and some of us regard Henry’s eight-year-old chimp behaviour as utterly repugnant. I’d add that this sort of infantile behaviour seems to be endemic among overpaid right wing propagandists like Henry, but do I really need to?

  19. James 19

    How was this a right left issue?…plenty of lefty minded people are having a laugh at this as anyone on the right…maybe more.

    “It is wrong to apologise for the mistakes of others, but in this case I feel I have to. I am sorry to all women out there on behalf on all evolved male human beings who reside in this country. Some of us aren’t misogynistic cretins, and some of us regard Henry’s eight-year-old chimp behaviour as utterly repugnant. I’d add that this sort of infantile behaviour seems to be endemic among overpaid right wing propagandists like Henry, but do I really need to?”

    ….Heres someone who needs a blowjob more than any other white man in history

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