Well that didn’t take long. Paul Henry, chucked off the telly here in NZ, left for a new TV presenting role in Australia in March. Predictably:
Paul Henry slammed for asylum seeker comments
Australian TV viewers and media critics have slammed Paul Henry for “sick” remarks about asylum seekers including a suggestion they could live in linen cupboards.
The former TVNZ Breakfast show host, now a host on Channel Ten’s Breakfast programme, was commenting on a Daily Telegraph story that Australia’s federal government will pay families to temporarily house asylum seekers in their homes to help deal with increasing arrivals.
Henry said the idea could be broadened out. “I mean if this is all about saving money you could broaden it out. Why not criminals? Not murderers, but low level criminals. You could – the jails could be smaller and you could put them in homestay situations. The mentally ill. The mentally ill could go into homes.” Co-host Andrew Rochford interrupted, describing the comments as “a classic demonisation of asylum seekers”.
When Rochford said people who don’t have the room would not invite a refugee to come and live in the linen cupboard, Henry said: “That’s a good idea, 300 bucks a week for the linen cupboard. You could put – you’d want to get the linen out, wouldn’t you? Otherwise (inaudible) ‘oh, these sheets are dirty. Ergh’. “Don’t ask. These towels… (sniffs) oh no, don’t ask. We’ve got someone living in the linen cupboard kids, just don’t go in there.”
ABC TV’s Media Watch show described Henry’s comments as “sick”. “What’s sicker still is that Henry’s bosses at Ten will be delighted that their struggling little breakfast show has featured on Media Watch. If they’d had any shame, they wouldn’t have hired him in the first place,” host Jonathan Holmes said in this week’s episode.
That last paragraph contains the essence of it. Controversy makes money (just like “sex sells” and so on). Trouble is that it does so only for some (the media organisation), and it does so at a cost to society (the cost of beating up hatreds and tensions). Like a polluter making money while passing on the costs of pollution to the rest of us, a media organisation can make money while passing on the costs of hatred in the same way. It’s a tricky balance with free speech and all, but why do we put up with toxic commentators? Why don’t we demand better?