New Zealand TV host quits after sparking criticism (Reuters)

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WELLINGTON (Reuters) – A New Zealand television host has quit after sparking a diplomatic row when he ridiculed the name of Sheila Dikshit, the chief minister of the Indian capital, New Delhi.

Television station TVNZ came under heavy criticism after its “Breakfast” show host Paul Henry mispronounced Dikshit, despite being told by the lead anchor that it is pronounced “Dixit.”

India summoned New Zealand’s high commissioner on Thursday to formally protest against what it said were “racial remarks” involving Dikshit, who was asked last month to take charge of the floundering Commonwealth Games preparations.

New Zealand Prime Minister John Key said on Monday that Henry had resigned after several hundred complaints to the broadcaster regarding his Dikshit comments and questioning whether the nation’s Governor-General Sir Anand Satyanand, who is of Indian descent, was “even a New Zealander.”

“He has made that decision and I guess over the last week he’s had some time to reflect on the comments,” Key told breakfast television on Monday.

Key said there had been no pressure from himself or the government on TVNZ regarding Henry’s future and it was “good that he has personally made that decision.”

The prime minister said Henry’s resignation would help repair any damage caused to New Zealand’s relationship with India but stressed that these were comments from one person.

TVNZ Chief Executive Rick Ellis said he accepted Henry’s resignation on Sunday after seven years as a breakfast TV host and apologized to anyone who had been offended by the presenter’s “inappropriate on-air comments.”

“I will be apologizing in person to the Governor General. I also apologise to the Indian community, both here and in India,” he said in a statement.

Henry, 50, who was suspended from the TV station on October 5, said he had apologized twice and accepted that he had inadvertently crossed the line of what was acceptable from time to time.

“I do not want to continue to be used as a lightning rod for racial disharmony in this country. Likewise, I certainly do not want my elderly mother staked out at her nursing home by tabloid media, as has happened this weekend,” he said in a statement.

There are more than 100,000 New Zealanders of Indian ethnic origin, almost 3 percent of the population.

The row was the latest in a series of problems for authorities in Delhi who have struggled with a chaotic run-up to the Games, with corruption, shoddy construction, health and security issues bringing into question India’s ability to host the event.

(Writing by Belinda Goldsmith, Editing by Ossian Shine)

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