Rosemary McLeod: Henry's gaffe a relief from American politics

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Paul Henry's comments have been a welcome distraction from the American election. Photo/File
Paul Henry's comments have been a welcome distraction from the American election. Photo/File

I fell on last weekend's report of Paul Henry's latest gaffe less with outrage than relief. What a happy change from what Americans call wieners, as in Anthony Weiner's wiener, currently, and its indirect blow to Hillary Clinton's chances in the race for the White House.

Women, of course, do not think about men's body parts, let alone make crude or juvenile comments on their supposed dimensions. We are too mature for smutty jokes and risque references, let alone tall tales of adventures in the sack. We are respectful of others, and indeed of otherness, without the need to giggle, snort or snigger, which is the province of small boys and the popular broadcaster.

Henry was made to sit on the naughty stool for commenting on a woman's breasts. He was in a restaurant with his publicist, being interviewed, when he commented on what he called "perfect titties", and lamented when the owner put her leather jacket on, covering them as she left. She would not have heard his comments, he said, "but if she did, you know what? She's going to walk away 1) outraged, which is a feeling people love, and 2) very f....

proud. Outraged and Proud, of Remuera".

She'd more likely be annoyed, but whatever, his juvenilia called for comment from likely disapprovers. Michelle A'Court provided golden copy, as in: "I would call that sexual harassment. I believe she was being objectified as a woman." I'm not sure how you harass someone who isn't aware of your babblings, but I get the drift.

As someone who hosts a news programme, she added, Henry "should be someone we trust and respect, and look up to". I am not sure which should trouble me more, Henry's outburst or the worrying thought that anyone would expect a broadcaster to be a role model.

White Ribbon ambassador Richie Hardcore offered yet more predictable copy, as in: "Objectification as a behaviour is dehumanising." Who could argue? And Jill Proudfoot, director of domestic abuse charity Shine, added that the reported conversation had undone all the "good work" Henry had done in discussing domestic violence on his programme. Since he was not violent, just puerile, I am unsure how he undid anything.

Former breakfast host Rawdon Christie said Henry was probably "loving the attention", while another former broadcaster, Brian Edwards said the expletive-laden interview itself was a "career wrecking ball", as it would have been back when he was a media star. Edwards added, sneakily, "Get some help, mate."

All of this energy being expended on Henry briefly took my mind off American politics and its eternal weiner issues. Clinton has had to contend with three examples in her political trajectory, all of them a nuisance. There is her husband, Bill, the "hard dog to keep on the porch", as she once called him, whose extramarital sex-capades were an embarrassment her Republican rival felt the need to use against her, and then there is the weiner issue of Donald Trump himself.

A string of attractive women has now reported Trump snogging, propositioning or groping them without encouragement, indicating that he is possibly also a philanderer eternally on the make. There has been fascinating commentary in this regard on his small hands, a subject about which he is sensitive. It's a boy thing.

It was one-all in the venturesome wiener world by my reckoning until the FBI director announced that, while investigating online activity of the clearly unwell Weiner, who faces prosecution, email correspondence possibly not seen before, including Clinton's name, had appeared. Which may mean nothing for all anyone knows.

Whether this bombshell delivers a win to Trump, as craven members of the GOP creeping out of hiding places would suggest, we don't yet know. But it could. Weiner, a former congressman, was married to Clinton's top aide until his compulsion to flash his eponymous thing overtook the saner part of his nature, ruining his marriage, killing all hope of a future in politics, and by a concatenation of events, dealing a political train wreck to his estranged wife's boss.

Whether with fast hands, small hands, or downright sleazy hands, it took just three wieners to stack the odds against Clinton. In the face of that Henry was a mere atom in an overflowing bucket of male oddities, like the galling sight of Trump crowing his thanks to his jubilant, totally scary fans.

- Bay of Plenty Times

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