TV1 Breakfast host Paul Henry’s comment against the Governor General Rt Hon Sir Anand Satyanand must not go unchallenged. It was clearly offensive and racist.
It is not the first time that Henry ventured into the forbidden territory and seems to derive great pleasure from publicly deriding his victims. Clearly, TV1 is embarrassed but it acted only after the public outcry rose to a crescendo. Initially, it made an attempt to veil the issue, saying that the broadcaster was, “loved by his audience because he is prepared to say the things we quietly think but are scared to say out loud!”
This statement is tantamount to endorsing the despicable statement made by Henry.
The Government is playing down the incident and Prime Minister John Key belatedly realised the gravity of the comment made to him while being interviewed by Henry.
An unwarranted embarrassment
Sir Anand was then in New Delhi attending the Commonwealth Games and Henry’s offensive comments have not escaped the hawkish Indian media that highlighted it, adding the essential spice.
It must have been embarrassing for Sir Anand to needlessly court controversy or being drawn into public scrutiny for no fault on his part.
I know Sir Anand as a very simple and humble person who does not seek the limelight. He has never been controversial and has always maintained high moral and ethical standards.
The aura of dignity, decorum and eminence always surround his person in any location or company. He is of Indian origin but does not speak Hindi. He has a natural Kiwi accent with soft and impressionable voice that exudes kindness, compassion and consideration for others. But Henry’s sharp, penetrating and shrill voice has incised many innocent people on many occasions.
Indeed, broadcasters carry enormous power but cannot ignore their responsibility to be fair and just. They cannot afford to alienate their audience, using offensive language against public figures.
They must know the people well enough before they speak about or against them.
It was evident that Henry did not know Sir Anand well enough to make the disgusting comment. The Governor General, in every way, fitted his description of a Kiwi worthy of appointment to the country’s highest public office.
However, what Henry said and implied were two distinct things. Clearly, ethnicity underpinned in what he said but he could not risk saying it blatantly.
Unfortunately, the Governor General’s position, unlike politicians, is such that he cannot publicly defend himself. He is the chosen representative of the Queen and generally follows the protocol observed by her in such matters.
Henry’s apology was appropriate but showed no genuine remorse. He probably felt that he could ride the waves, disregarding the intensity of public reaction. TV1 cannot ignore its culpability in this, as time and again he has been callous in his comments and for him to continue in that mode, clearly shows that he has the support of his employer in being controversial and notorious.
He had labeled Susan Boyle, as ‘retarded’ when the entire world was at her feet with her mind-blowing song, I dream. He also mocked at Delhi Chief Minister Sheila Dixit, calling her “Dick Shit” and walked himself into frenzy like a primate. He ignored even when he was corrected and blatantly attempted to justify his bigotry, using racial slur, “She is Indian, isn’t she?”
An unleashed Henry has a great potential to self-destruct and take down others with him.
He may have the courage to say things but that does not exempt him as a public broadcaster, to be sensible, reasonable and fair.
It is sad that Sir Anand, who as the Governor General, should bear the indignity of weathering a storm created by a loose cannon that delights in ruffling feathers to promote himself as being bold and daring.
Indeed, physical injuries heal but some words continue to hurt and haunt people for the rest of their lives. He has caused grave injury to a person whose pride in being a simple, sensible and decent Kiwi has been needlessly violated.
Indeed, those who live by the sword also die by the sword and Henry may have come to the end of his lucrative profession.
Rajendra Prasad is our commentator and author of Tears in Paradise. Email: email@example.com