No surprises over Breakfast host Paul Henry’s latest bid to be recognised as New Zealand’s Most Talented Bigot.
The darling of New Zealand television’s mostly narrow-minded viewership, Henry has been perfecting his Archie Bunker impression for years now, and it was only a matter of time until he showed us his true colours in all their lurid foulness.
It’s true, his imbecilic remark about Governor General Sir Anand Satyanand not looking like a New Zealander has earned him a spell in TVNZ’s sin bin until Monday week, but it’s hard to imagine him overhauling his approach any time soon.
This, remember, was the bloke who delighted over singer Susan
Boyle “looking like a retard because, in fact, she was a retard”, who laughed at the facial hair on Greenpeace spokeswoman Stephanie Mills, and advocated taking obese kids off their parents.
According to Henry, all students were “P” dealers, Wellington’s homeless should be thrown in jail and former prime minister Helen Clark was a hypocrite for offering apologies to war veterans (as she’d protested against the war in the 1970s).
Much of it has been puerile, harmless nonsense, a good deal of it has been gratuitously cruel, and the most recent remark about Sir Anand not looking like a Kiwi was blatantly racist.
But a surprise? Not when it comes to the man who stood for the National Party as a Wairarapa candidate in 1999, campaigned on traditional family values and was beaten by Georgina Beyer.
Since then Henry has poured his warped and divisive energies into the mainstream media; arguably gaining more traction as a Kiwi version of Rush Limbaugh than he ever would have in the Beehive.
No, the only surprise in all this has been the initial reaction from TVNZ, which – through spokeswoman Andi Brotherston – tried to fob off the controversy by claiming that Henry often said aloud things that the rest of us were thinking but were too scared to say.
As bone-headed comments went, that was arguably an even bigger gaffe than Henry’s. The only implication to be taken from it was that TVNZ believed we were all racists; the only difference was that Henry had the courage to put up his hand.
Not only that, it threw the Government broadcaster into a horribly gaudy light as a supporter of a man whose witless remark not only insulted the Governor General and embarrassed the Prime Minister, but suggested to all New Zealanders that racism was okay.
For a channel that provides public service advertisements across the social spectrum, the message was one of utter hypocrisy; a tale of a broadcaster happy to sell tolerance and goodwill on one hand, while actively promoting division on the other.
TVNZ has at least made a start with its decision to suspend Henry without pay until October 18. But if it has any sense of community responsibility, let alone leadership, it will also begin moves to rid itself of his presence altogether.
Having said that, given what we’ve seen from TVNZ so far, you wouldn’t want to hold your breath.