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'Gippo' Henry Apologises Again

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'Gippo' Henry Apologises Again

By Maggie Tait of NZPA

TVNZ host Paul Henry apologised on air to Governor General Sir Anand Satyanand this morning and said he did not intend to be racist.

Henry caused offence yesterday when he asked Prime Minister John Key on the Breakfast programme about who he was looking at to replace Sir Anand when his five-year term ends next August.

"Is he even a New Zealander?" Henry asked about Sir Anand -- who was born and raised in New Zealand by his Fijian Indian parents.

"Are you going to choose a New Zealander who looks and sounds like a New Zealander this time... Are we going to go for someone who is more like a New Zealander this time?"

The comments prompted complaints to TVNZ, led to the resignation of a regular Breakfast presenter and were condemned by Race Relations Commissioner Joris de Bres for showing appalling ignorance.

Henry apologised yesterday if he caused any offence but did not say sorry for the substance. This morning he went a little further.

"I am sincerely sorry if I seemed disrespectful to him (Sir Anand), that 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."

Henry said Sir Anand's background was far more "dignified" than his own.

"Most people think that I am British but the truth is much, much worse than that, like the Governor-General I was born in New Zealand but, however, I am at least half what they colloquially call in Europe a gippo (gypsy).

"So let me make it quite clear I will never apologise for causing outrage, however, I will, and do apologise 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 gippo television presenter."

Mr Key yesterday afternoon said the comments were "just plain wrong" but said he still intended to appear on the show each Monday morning.

A TVNZ spokeswoman said the broadcaster had received "several dozen" complaints, and Mr Key said it was up to the Broadcasting Standards Authority (BSA) whether any action was taken.

TVNZ defended Henry, saying: "The audience tell us over and over again that one of the things they love about Paul Henry is that he's prepared to say the things we quietly think but are scared to say out loud."

Sir Anand is in India for the Commonwealth Games. His public affairs manager Antony Paltridge told NZPA he had spoken to Sir Anand, who acknowledged Henry's apology.

However, he would not dignify Henry's initial statements with a response.

Immigrant and union organiser Joe Carolan called on people to join him in picketing TVNZ's Auckland offices at 5pm today to demand Henry be sacked.

"Paul Henry is a racist. His large salary is paid for by us, the working taxpayers," Mr Carolan said.

"Public sector broadcasting should have zero tolerance for racism. It's time for TVNZ to sack Paul Henry."

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