He had a good run, did our Paul Henry, with seven years in the hot seat at Breakfast, one of TVNZ’s best shows – and certainly the best early morning show New Zealand has to offer. I reckon it’s pretty safe to say that he made Breakfast what it was. Prime Minister John Key was quoted recently (in the wake of the Sir Anand Satyanand scandal), saying, “It’s not the Paul Henry show. It’s the TVNZ Breakfast show, and it’s important to remember that.” But that’s simply not true. A rolling current events show of Breakfast‘s type is all about the personality of its presenters, and between Paul Henry, Pippa Wetzell and Tamati Coffey, Henry’s screamed the loudest.
He was known as a brash, controversial, hilarious but unforgiving interviewer, and it had long been his schtick to simply say what the rest of us were all thinking. But he was bloody lucky to keep his job – there were some seriously dicey moments over the past couple of years. Remember Moustachegate?
But the one I have the most averse reaction to is this interview he did with Pamela Anderson when she was in New Zealand for Fashion Week last year. It’s a seven minute long leer-fest, it’s embarrassing, and it shouldn’t have been aired on TV.
As a broadcaster – especially one with so much power and popularity – Paul Henry had a responsibility to rise above the silly (and often immature) jokes that obviously came so naturally to him. But he got a little too comfortable in his position – and nobody is invincible.
His greatest mistake was an error of judgement – or the lack of an internal monologue. Maybe he’s New Zealand’s answer to Kanye West. But his remarks about the Governor General were unforgivable. TVNZ, as a state owned and funded TV network, could not possibly keep him on board. He had to go. There must be zero-tolerance on racial insensitivity.
The most disappointing aspect of the whole episode was TVNZ’s lukewarm apology immediately after the incident. It was only after the huge public outcry that they started to look into it seriously – and even then it seemed like the biggest worry was a possible drop in advertising revenue as a result of Henry’s remarks. It’s all about the bottom line.
Maybe he resigned of his own accord, maybe he was given the option to walk or be fired. Either way, Paul Henry had to go.
“I have apologised twice, and have meant every word. I again apologise to all those who were genuinely hurt by what I said.
However, it is clear that things have now reached a point where my actions will have to speak louder than my words.”
It’s the end of an era.
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