The other time Paul Henry had it in for someone with Indian heritage

Paul Henry isn’t alone on this: a lot of New Zealand media have been making fun of Delhi Chief Minister Smt. Sheila Dikshit’s surname, purposely mispronouncing it as dick-shit and then giggling away. (For the record, the pronunciation is close to dixit.) Though after his comments about HE Sir Anand Satyanand earlier this week, it’s easy to draw a connection and ask: does Mr Henry have it in for anyone of Indian ethnicity?
   Apparently, before the quips about the Governor-General, Mr Henry stated on his Breakfast programme:

The dip shit woman. God, what’s her name? Dick-shit. Is it dick shit? … It looks like dick shit … It’s so appropriate, because she’s Indian, so she’d be dick-in-shit wouldn’t she, do you know what I mean? Walking along the street … it’s just so funny.

The Fairfax Press reports that TVNZ received relatively few complaints (four) about the mispronunciation of Dikshit, while the inappropriate comments about Sir Anand are in the 600s. Prime TV reports that the complaints have hit a ‘record number’.
   This is no surprise, given that the later comments related directly to how New Zealanders felt about ourselves.
   There’s apparently been fresh criticism as TVNZ has allowed Henry’s mispronunciation clip to remain on its website after the furore on Monday. From Fairfax:

New Zealand Indian Central Association president Paul Singh Bains said the fact TVNZ was still promoting the clip on its website showed it had “totally lost the plot” and was insensitive to the offence Henry had caused.

The segment is now gone, though the tiny 14-day suspension that TVNZ gave Paul Henry seems even weaker in this context.
   Making it worse was the TVNZ spokeswoman, who defended Henry on Monday and worsened the matter then. I think TVNZ needs a new spokesperson. Here’s how Fairfax reported her response:

TVNZ spokeswoman Andi Brotherston said the website was an independent news organisation.
   “[It] is part of TVNZ’s news and current affairs department, which has its editorial independence enshrined in legislation.”

Translation: we can’t do anything about how we promote the channel because of the law.
   Why, pray tell, was the clip then removed?
   It might be nice to get the context in which Ms Brotherston made her comment.
   I wrote to the network today suggesting that Mr Henry at least meet with the New Zealand Indian Central Association in his 14 days off. (I called it, wrongly, the Indian New Zealand Association, mixing it up with one in Wellington.) Let’s do something beyond the on-air apology and learn just why these “ethnic” associations are necessary in New Zealand. (One big reason: the Paul Henrys of this world.)

One thing has bugged me: this idea from Henry that Sir Anand Satyanand does not sound like a New Zealander. I have met the Governor-General on several occasions and I never remembered him having any accent but a Kiwi one. I even had to look for clips of Sir Anand just to make sure my memory wasn’t playing tricks on me. I remember that his wife, Lady Satyanand, is very well spoken. So just how much like a New Zealander did Henry think the next Governor-General should sound like? Fred Dagg? Him?
   There’s nothing wrong with a Fred Dagg-sounding Governor-General, but it seems that Mr Henry believed that a Kiwi accent is not a Kiwi accent if its speaker has Indian heritage.

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11 thoughts on “The other time Paul Henry had it in for someone with Indian heritage

  1. Mustn’t go saying that Fredd Dagg is some sort of undesirable – after all he went to the same school as you.

  2. Francis, I think my last paragraph is a good save.

    Though I still think of John and his personas as different people!

  3. I’m an Indian who navigated to your blog searching for how much coverage this event had. Your balanced and logical thought-process and hence your stand is well appreciated. There is such a variety of people in the world and in every region that one can’t afford to generalize remarks on a given community (or a random individual who he claims to know for a while) as a whole and this is where Paul miserably failed.

  4. Aryan, thank you for your kind compliments. It is a shame that we have people like that on our airwaves—and on a state-owned channel, no less. New Zealand should have been forthcoming with an apology to all Indian people far sooner than we actually were.

  5. Indians are the biggest Nuisance in New Zealand the majority on yahoo are indians and they are always jumping on to peoples pages.. mails you name it. I remember yahoo back in 1998 when we first started using internet they were the biggest nuisance. Having a name like dikshit in New Zealand is not a good thing.. those particular words in New Zealand are words used to insult a person. it is not surprising for this natural NZder called Paul Henry to laugh. he not the only one we all do…You tell me what New Zealander can sit there with a straight face and say “Paul Henry that is naughty insulting DIK SHIT..they will laugh just by saying that word do you indians not get it?????? obviously NOOOT!

  6. What a gross and wrongful generalization you begin with, Virginia. I have been on Yahoo! since 1994 and have never seen the behaviour you mention (not that I go around really noticing who is Indian). And as to Paul Henry joking about Sheila Dikshit’s surname: sure, I take the point that many people would have a laugh about it. I would say: stop there.
       As far as I can tell, Indians do get it, since English is their lingua franca. They are not complaining about the joke because plenty of Kiwi journalists have had a laugh at her expense without consequence. They are complaining that Henry went on and added the words, ‘It’s so appropriate, because she’s Indian, so she’d be dick-in-shit wouldn’t she, do you know what I mean? Walking along the street … it’s just so funny.’ I agree with them that he took it too far—since when did Indians walk around in fæces? What kind of a messed-up statement is that?
       Then add the fact that he does not think Sir Anand Satyanand sounds like a New Zealander when he does, then Henry needs a reality check.

  7. @VH
    Thank you for your opinions. There is one word which summarizes it – hate. With all due respect to your interpretations, I do agree that one may laugh, but as the author stated above, most of us felt it was wrong that the Host generalized it at the community-level. Furthermore, he could have ridiculed the name but certainly not that individual, who he does not know in any way.
    I hope you attempt to understand the logic. I do not plan on reading your reply to this because I know what to expect, and I do not intend to carry on this argument, for whatever reason. I do not belong to your country and do not intend to visit it and as for your yahoo argument, please take it up with the yahoo folks.

  8. Henry is a typical New Zealander he was just more public than most people. wateva aryan. I am a new zealander… and I haven’t met one that doesn’t think like I do… and yeah majority laugh only the foreigners wont cause they dont even belong here. and as for yahoo its not only that .. there is email and anything that indians anything else on the net they can lay there hands on. if you call that hate.. you should knooow what that is since your country constantly criticizes other nationalities anyway. As for Sir Anand.. um he aint a New Zealander??? you need a reality check.

  9. Wow, more generalizations. You say you haven’t met a New Zealander who doesn’t think as you do. Above you just did; hop anywhere online or even go out into the street, you’ll find a lot of disagreement with you on this issue.
       I won’t go so far as to say that everyone agrees with me. I’ve met New Zealanders, Māori and pākeha, on both sides of this issue.
       So now you’re saying that Indians are a nuisance no matter which internet service they are on? Good grief.
       ‘My country’ is New Zealand, and I don’t think anyone has even suggested that Sir Anand Satyanand is not a New Zealander. Not sure where you got that from.
       The one person who needs a reality check is Paul Henry, because he was the one who suggested that Sir Anand did not look or sound like a New Zealander. Looks like in that very last sentence you’ve agreed with us and disagreed with your earlier arguments. Thank you.

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