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NZ apologizes to India for TV host’s racist joke

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WELLINGTON, New Zealand » New Zealand’s foreign minister on Friday condemned a local television host’s "insulting" comments on air about an Indian official’s name that drew a government complaint of racism from the South Asian nation.

Giggling uncontrollably, controversial presenter Paul Henry repeatedly mocked the last name of New Delhi Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit on the "Breakfast" show.

He also called her name "so appropriate because she’s Indian."

To an untrained ear, Dikshit’s last name sounds very similar to how it is spelled in English, though it has no vulgar connotations in Hindi.

Dikshit, the equivalent of the city mayor, stepped in to oversee much of the frenzied last-minute preparations for the Commonwealth Games currently underway in the Indian capital.

Foreign Minister Murray McCully said Friday he wants India to know that Henry’s comments last week did not represent the view of most New Zealanders.

India "strongly and unequivocally denounces the racist remarks of the journalist in question," the government said in a formal protest to New Zealand High Commissioner Rupert Holborow.

Henry, regarded as a provocative "shock jock," is now on suspension from Television New Zealand for a separate incident of insensitive remarks.

On Monday, Henry questioned whether New Zealand-born Governor general Sir Anand Satyanand, the son of Fiji Indian migrants, was "even a New Zealander" and whether his successor would "look and sound like a New Zealander."

Henry later apologized on-air to Satyanand, but he was suspended and had his pay docked for two weeks by state-owned broadcaster, Television New Zealand.


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