Broadcaster stirs race row over Queen's man in N.Zealand

4th October 2010, Comments 0 comments

A New Zealand broadcaster sparked a race row Monday when he publicly questioned Prime Minister John Key about whether the country's ethnic minority governor general was a proper New Zealander.

TVNZ breakfast host Paul Henry challenged the credentials of Governor General Anand Satyanand -- Queen Elizabeth II's representative in New Zealand -- who was born in Auckland to Indo-Fijian parents.

"Is he even a New Zealander?" Henry asked as an uncomfortable Key tried to move the conversation on.

"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?" Satyanand's five-year term is about to come to an end, meaning Key will pick his successor.

Fuelling the row, state-owned TVNZ initially defended the presenter, 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."

It was the latest in a series of gaffes by the outspoken host, who last year described singer Susan Boyle as "retarded", said gays were "unnatural" and accused a female guest from Greenpeace of having a moustache.

The Prime minister later said Henry's latest comments were "just plain wrong", describing Satyanand as a fine New Zealander who did a great job representing the country.

Race Relations Commissioner Joris de Bres said Henry had shown appalling ignorance, while one of his breakfast show colleagues, technology reviewer Ben Gracewood, quit in protest at the remarks.

Henry initially dismissed the criticism, saying "some people are very easily offended", but later issued a statement apologising to Satyanand.

"If my comments have personally offended Sir Anand, I regret it deeply," he said, describing himself as a monarchist who recognised Satyanand's outstanding contribution to the country.

© 2010 AFP

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