Paul Henry has got away with ridiculing and insulting a whole range of individuals and groups during his tenure as one of the co-hosts of TVNZ's Breakfast.

Henry's attacks have always been politically specific.

He has saved his vitriol for the liberal and left of the political spectrum.

In stark contrast, he hasn't been slow in promoting the right wing. In particular, John Key and the National Government have enjoyed Henry's benevolence.

Personally I have found his toadying to the Prime Minister just as offensive as anything he might say about Greenpeace or the welfare state.

And TVNZ has countenanced his blatant political partisanship.

The state-owned channel has driven its limited news and current affairs service into the tabloid mire and it has encouraged Henry's transformation into New Zealand's budget-priced version of Fox TV's Bill O'Reilly = with a twist of Glen Beck.

TVNZ have euphemistically described this development as Henry 'pushing the envelope' .

Yesterday TVNZ spokeswoman Andi Brotherston revealingly attempted to justify his latest outrage by arguing that Henry was simply giving voice to what many New Zealanders are thinking but will only say behind closed doors.

Andi Brotherston apparently thinks that this dirty linen should get a good airing on national television.

TVNZ might view Henry as the voice of the reactionary right but he made a real error by straying from his usual targets.

He might get away with attacking Greenpeace activists, socialists and the disabled but its an entirely different story when you make some deeply racist comments about a pillar of the Establishment - the Governor General no less. The Queen's representative in New Zealand.

To add insult to injury Henry embarrassed the Establishment even further by dragging the Prime Minister into the debacle. John Key has had to try and fend off criticisms that he failed to hold his mate Henry to account for his comments. He can hardly have appreciated the implication that he countenanced Henry's racism.

After initially resisting public calls for action be taken against their 'star', TVNZ have now slapped Henry over the wrist with a wet bus ticket and suspended him for a fortnight.

This is a purely symbolic punishment but TVNZ will be hoping that this will be enough to appease the Government, who probably quietly let it be known that they expected 'appropriate action' to be taken.

What lesson will Paul Henry draw from all this?

It will be simply not to bite the hand that feeds him.

Once he returns to our television screens we can expect normal service to resume and the bashing of the left to continue.


  1. I often watch 'Hard Talk' on BBC World and there is an interviewer who engages in a literate and serious discussion with his interviewees.
    I look at shows like Breakfast and Close Up and I am just embarrassed by how dumbed down our TV has become.
    It has degraded to such degree that someone like Henry can continue being a boorish right wing prick - and TVNZ won't sack him!


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