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.