Complaints against Paul Henry over 'moustache-gate' upheld

TVNZ has upheld viewer complaints against Breakfast host Paul Henry after he commented that a female guest had a moustache.

On March 25 Henry read viewer comments that a female guest, Greenpeace worker Stephanie Mills, had a moustache. He then added his own comments, while his co-host Alison Mau pleaded with him to stop.

"That was a moustache on a lady," he said. "People can say what they see, it's television isn't it?"

Mau later in the show read a letter from a woman who talked about the medical causes behind female facial hair and said she had been reduced to tears by Henry's comments.

"Start a group, really," Henry had responded.

It has been jokingly dubbed "moustache-gate" and the video on YouTube has had nearly 100,000 views.

TVNZ spokeswoman Megan Richards said TVNZ had upheld the complaints against Henry because Ms Mills was treated unfairly.

It had written back to the about 30 people who complained and apologised to them, she told NZPA.

Ms Mills was not one of the people who complained.

Ms Richards believed Henry had privately apologised to Ms Mills.

Henry had been spoken to and told on-air editorial decisions were not his to make and that he must adhere to the executive producer's decisions.

TVNZ had met with senior Breakfast staff to insist on the need for more care and discretion around editorial decisions about what the programme covered.

It had also held several discussions within the news and current affairs department to clarify its expectations around such matters.

Ms Richards said the company did not wish to comment further.

"In a situation like this the more that is said the more you run the risk of revictimising the person whom we've all agreed was treated unfairly in the first place."

Henry has also received support from viewers after the incident, with one Auckland clothing company, Mr Vintage, selling T-shirts depicting his face and the quote, "That is a moustache on a lady".

- NZPA

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