Broadcaster Paul Holmes' major gaffe last week when he called United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan a "cheeky darkie" has hit Television New Zealand in the pocket.

Mitsubishi Motors New Zealand announced today it was withdrawing its sponsorship of the TVNZ Holmes show.

"The board and management find the views recently expressed by Paul Holmes regarding United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan and women journalists to be completely unacceptable and incompatible with the ethos of our company," said Mitsubishi Motors managing director John Leighton.


The action followed Holmes' morning radio show on NewstalkZB last week when he said the world would not be told how to live by a Ghanaian, and several references to Mr Annan as a "cheeky darkie".

In the same proramme but in a separate item, Holmes also criticised the high numbers of women journalists in the profession.

"At certain times of the month do newspapers get particularly judgmental," he said during a discussion with Brian Edwards on media issues.

"Oh, you are in trouble. You are in desperate trouble for saying something like that," Dr Edwards said.

Mr Leighton told NZPA today it was a matter of "principle before profits".

He said the company had enjoyed a very high public profile through the Holmes show which had helped to boost car sales significantly and it would be hard to replace.

He would not discuss how much the company had paid for the 30 second slot it had at the start of the programme or the name association rights that came with the sponsorship.

The contract had been running for 18 months and had another six months to run but the Mitsubishi association would end tonight. Further discussions would be held with TVNZ on the remaining six months of the contract, he said.

Mr Leighton said the apology from Holmes the following day did little to appease the original complaint.

"There are some things you can't apologise for and I am afraid some things when they are done, they are done. They cannot be undone by simply saying I am sorry.

"That doesn't undo the damage."

He said there was only one way to distance the company from the damage and that was to withdraw the sponsorship.