No ‘govt pressure’ behind ‘India-racism-slur’ TV host’s ‘resignation’, says Kiwi PM

Monday, October 11, 2010

WELLINGTON - New Zealand Prime Minister John Key has said that his government did not pressurise TVNZ presenter Paul Henry to resign, and added that he was happy that Henry made his own decision.

Henry resigned on Sunday after meeting the state broadcaster’s chief executive, Rick Ellis.

“He has made that decision and I guess over the last week he’s had some time to reflect on the comments - and overall the pattern of behaviour in the last few months,” the New Zealand Herald quoted Key, as saying.

Key also said that it was “good he has personally made that decision”, and stressed that neither he nor his government exerted any pressure on the TVNZ board over the matter.

Pressure had been mounting since Henry insulted the Governor-General, Sir Anand Satyanand, during an interview with Key on Breakfast last Monday.

Earlier, his ‘racist’ comments against New Delhi Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit had outraged the Indian government, which had expressed its displeasure by summoning the New Zealand high commissioner over the issue.

The TVNZ breakfast host mocked the name of Sheila Dikshit by repeatedly calling her “Dick-sh*t” and claimed that her name was “so appropriate” because she was an Indian.

Mwanwhile, Ellis has commended Henry for his decision following the “inappropriate” comments, which he said had damaged New Zealand’s international relationships.

“As an organisation committed to the principles of free speech it is our job to steer a course between the sometimes conflicting demands of freedom of opinion and respect for others. This is not always easy. However, what is clear as an outcome of this episode is that any suggestion of racism, whether intended or not, is unacceptable. We are quite clear about that,” he added.

It is being speculated that TVNZ had agreed to pay six months’ salary to Henry, about 150,000 dollars for his resignation, the paper said.

Earlier, Key had said that Henry’s ‘racist’ comments had embarrassed his nation. (ANI)

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