Paul Henry resigns from TVNZ

Click here for Paul Henry's full statement.
Click here for Rick Ellis' full statement.

Paul Henry. Photo / Greg Bowker
Paul Henry. Photo / Greg Bowker

Controversial broadcaster Paul Henry resigned from TVNZ this afternoon, acknowledging that he had "crossed the line".

"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," he said in a statement.

"I am grateful to the many thousands of people who have offered their support to me.

"I hope they will understand and accept that an extraordinary convergence of circumstances has made this action necessary."

Henry was suspended without pay this week after an interview on Breakfast with Prime Minister John Key, in which he questioned whether Governor-General Sir Anand Satyanand was really a New Zealander.

He also came under fire after mocking and mispronouncing Delhi chief minister Sheila Dikshit's name, despite being told it should be "Dixit".

His comments sparked international outrage; New Zealand High Commissioner Rupert Holborow was called in by the Indian foreign ministry in New Delhi and handed a formal protest.

TVNZ chief executive Rick Ellis said it was a credit to Henry that he made the decision on his own.

If the situation had continued as it had, advertising might have been affected, he said.

Ellis offered his regrets to the Indian community and will be apologising in person to the Governor-General.

"The reality is that his comments have split the community and damaged New Zealand's international relationships, and there is no going back from that.

"Paul is not the first broadcaster to step over the line, and I expect he won't be the last - but there are factors at play here that have taken things to a unique level."

He said TVNZ had begun reviewing its editorial policies and code of conduct for presenters - in particular, practices around live broadcasts.

Today, Henry said it was "no longer practical" for him to do his job and he did not want to be used as a "lightning rod for racial disharmony".

"I have apologised twice, and have meant every word. I again apologise to all those who were genuinely hurt by what I said."

He paid tribute to his colleagues on Breakfast and thanked the thousands of people who had offered their support to him.

Ben Gracewood, who resigned from his spot as technology commentator on the show following the first incident, today said he would be happy to return if invited by TVNZ.

"However, I appreciate that they may have already set in place alternative plans."

He said the publicity had allowed many New Zealanders to voice their opinions about race.

"I'm heartened that the overwhelming majority understand that our vibrant, multicultural society is part of what makes this such a wonderful country. There is no single skin colour or accent that defines a 'real New Zealander'."

PM: Resignation brings 'closure'

John Key says Henry's resignation has brought "closure".

"This episode has been sad and regrettable," he said through a spokeswoman.

"Mr Henry's resignation brings closure to the matter and we should now put it behind us," he said.

Earlier today, he said he did not think the comments would affect international relations.

"People should recognise that broadcasters and commentators say things all over the world, and if we took offence to those comments all the time, we'd cease to have any diplomatic relations.

"It's what comes out of the Government's mouths rather than the broadcasters' mouths that's most important."

- NZHERALD STAFF

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