Asia-Pacific

New Zealand TV host resigns over Indian race row

Paul Henry
Image caption Paul Henry was no stranger to controversy as a television presenter

New Zealand television host Paul Henry has resigned after provoking public outrage over his on-air comments about Delhi Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit.

He laughed a number of times as he mispronounced the surname, which sounds closer to "Dixit" in English.

Indian officials condemned the remarks as "racist and bigoted".

He was already suspended for suggesting that Governor General Sir Anand Satyanand, who is of Fijian-Indian heritage, was not a real New Zealander.

As controversy mounted over those remarks, made last week, his earlier remarks about Ms Dikshit resurfaced.

'Insensitive and vulgar'

Mr Henry, presenting TVNZ's Breakfast programme told viewers two weeks ago that Ms Dikshit's name was "appropriate because she's Indian.

"I've known about her for a while and I've been laughing ever since," he said.

The remarks sparked indignation both in New Zealand and in India.

India's foreign ministry summoned the New Zealand high commissioner last week to register a formal protest.

New Zealand's government has apologised for the remarks, describing them as "culturally insensitive and vulgar".

Sheila Dikshit is overseeing arrangements for the Commonwealth Games in Delhi, which have been beset by problems. She brushed off Mr Henry's remarks but said they were "not appropriate".

Announcing his resignation, Mr Henry said it was "no longer practical in the current environment for me to do the job".

Image caption Ms Dikshit said Mr Henry's remarks were inappropriate

He added: "I am astonished and dismayed that my comments have created a diplomatic incident. My style is conversational and of course unscripted. I walk the finest of lines and accept that I have inadvertently crossed it from time to time."

Prime Minister John Key said the whole episode was "sad and regrettable" but his resignation should bring "closure".

The chief executive of TVNZ, Rick Ellis, commended Mr Henry's decision to resign, saying his comments split the community and damaged New Zealand's international relationships.

Mr Henry has a reputation for controversial comments.

He once described Scottish singer Susan Boyle as "retarded" and accused a female guest from Greenpeace of having a moustache, New Zealand press reports say.

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