There are two distinct parts to the Paul Henry furore.
The first matter is that of the comments relating to Sheila Dikshit, the Indian Minister.
Humour involving rude sounding surnames has been around forever and a day, and while it elicits a giggle from schoolboys to hear people called “Eric Shin”, most people would roll their eyes.
Paul Henry’s labouring of the Dikshit joke was equally a matter for rolling of eyes for most New Zealanders. A small joke, not a very good one. No real harm done.
India’s angry behaviour in sending diplomatic notes is probably more a convenient response to their own humiliation over the Commonwealth Games village mess, when NZ Chef De Mission Dave Curry described the conditions as filthy to the world.
It's also convenient to make a victim of Dikshit over cheeky comments half a world away, instead of holding her (and her government) over India's lack of preparedness for the Commonwealth Games.
The subsequent international exposure of comments and photos about the disgraceful state of some of the village accommodation will have shamed India, and remember, it did briefly threaten to derail their games. NZers have been the forefront of that criticism.
As it happened, the village was cleaned up, made hospitable, and major nations in the Commonwealth confirmed their participation. A major national PR catastrophe was avoided, but the humiliation of India on the eve of their games could not go unpunished.
Paul Henry’s comments about Minister Dikshit are therefore a convenient opportunity for India to lash back. New Zealand issues a note of apology, India gets to send a message “don’t mess with us”, and Henry is scapegoated for his previous sins and the feeling about the athlete’s village in late September.
The talk about New Zealand losing education business from Indian students is a bit hollow, and I predict that Indian students will continue to come to New Zealand, because they know there is a strong Indian diaspora, they can get a regarded qualification and we are a safe and advanced country which on the whole, has good race relations.
If this was the only scandal involving comments of Paul Henry, I suspect he would still be on air, chastened a little but no harm done to him.
However, the Satyanand comments are a different kettle of fish.
Here, something dark was exposed in Henry’s soul – a comment that showed an almost casual lack of regard towards someone whose qualifications to be Governor-General are almost unimpeachable. The Auckland born highly educated and respected Anand Satyanand was by inference described as not being kiwi enough by someone who subsequently admitted to Gyspy heritage.
What I can’t understand is how someone like Henry, who I don’t believe to be a racist, made such a comment.
I wonder whether it’s possible Henry was egged on to be controversial by someone whispering in that earpiece of his – to see if he could say something shocking to the Prime Minister, who might be caught unguarded and then say something as equally as controversial?
It's TV after all - ratings are everything.
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