N.Zealand TV presenter in new race row over Indian official

6th October 2010, Comments 0 comments

A New Zealand television host suspended over allegations of racism faced fresh controversy Wednesday for ridiculing the name of Delhi Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit.

State-owned broadcaster TVNZ suspended breakfast host Paul Henry on Tuesday for questioning whether the country's governor general, who is from an Indo-Fijian background, was a proper New Zealander.

Footage emerged Wednesday of Henry deliberately mispronouncing the name of Dikshit, one of the officials who has been overseeing India's troubled Commonwealth Games, despite being told by colleagues it was pronounced "Dixit".

Fairfax Media's stuff.co.nz website said TVNZ had been promoting the clip on the highlights section of its website, but removed the footage Wednesday after reports it had offended members of the Indian community.

New Zealand Indian Central Association president Paul Singh Bains said Henry appeared to have a problem with Indians and TVNZ should have sacked him, rather than suspending him for less than two weeks over his governor general remarks.

"TVNZ have lost the plot. I honestly think the credibility of TVNZ is down the tubes through this," Bains told stuff.co.nz.

"He should be sanctioned more than that. He should be eliminated from that spot. He should be sacked and given another role somewhere else."

When he suspended Henry, TVNZ chief executive Rick Ellis said the presenter "well and truly crossed the line" with his comments on Governor General Anand Satyanand, who was born in Auckland to Indo-Fijian parents.

"Is he even a New Zealander?" Henry asked Prime Minister John Key on Monday.

Henry has apologised over those remarks but has a long history of on-air gaffes, including describing British singer Susan Boyle as "retarded", gays as "unnatural", and accusing a female guest from Greenpeace of having a moustache.

© 2010 AFP

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