NZ TV host resigns after mocking name

Paul Henry made light of chief minister's surname

WELLINGTON, New Zealand -- A New Zealand public television host resigned Sunday after his mocking of an Indian official's name sparked a diplomatic protest of racism.

Controversial presenter Paul Henry left his post at state broadcaster Television New Zealand over his mocking of the name of New Delhi chief minister Sheila Dikshit.

Her surname means "one who has received religious initiation" and it can be kept only by Brahmins, the highest, priestly caste among Indians. To an untrained ear, however, its pronunciation is similar to English profanity.

On his "Breakfast" show two weeks ago, Henry also called Dikshit's name "so appropriate because she's Indian."

Dikshit, the equivalent of the city mayor, stepped in to oversee much of the frenzied last-minute preparations for the Commonwealth Games currently under way in the Indian capital.

On Friday, India said in a formal protest to New Zealand high commissioner Rupert Holborow that it "strongly and unequivocally denounces the racist remarks of the journalist in question."
Henry, regarded as a provocative "shock jock," was initially suspended from TVNZ for his insensitive remarks in questioning whether New Zealand-born governor General Sir Anand Satyanand, the son of Fiji Indian migrants, was "even a New Zealander" and whether his successor would "look and sound like a New Zealander."

Henry later apologized on-air to Satyanand.

On Sunday, Henry said it was "no longer practical in the current environment for me to do the job I was employed to do."

"It is also difficult for Television New Zealand to get on with the business of being a first-class broadcaster as long as I remain" on the staff, he said in a statement.

New Zealand prime minister John Key said Sunday he did not think Henry's comments would affect relations with India.

"People should recognize that broadcasters and commentators say things all over the world, and if we took offense to those comments all the time, we'd cease to have any diplomatic relations," he told reporters.
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