Sun, Sep 28, 2003 - Page 6 News List

Top New Zealand broadcaster gets static for outburst


Top New Zealand broadcaster Paul Holmes' outburst against UN Secretary General Kofi Annan on a radio show has led to a barrage of complaints, a bomb scare at his workplace and calls for his sacking.

Holmes, a veteran broadcaster with his own nightly current affairs television show as well as early morning talkback show, earned global infamy for referring to Annan on Wednesday as a "cheeky darkie."

Media around the world reported the comments, sparking calls for Television New Zealand to sack Holmes, the New Zealand Herald said yesterday.

Staff at Annan's New York office said he had read the slur, but had no comment, the Herald said.

Deputy spokeswoman Hua Jiang remarked: "It's not worthy of comment," the daily said.

Holmes called Annan, a Ghanaian, a "cheeky darkie" many times during a tirade against the UN on his daily Newstalk ZB radio slot on Wednesday.

"That Kofi Annan, I've got to say to you, has been a very cheeky darkie overnight," Holmes told his audience.

"He's been a very cheeky darkie. It's all very well giving a darkie that secretary general job but we'll only take so much. I'm sorry, we will only take so much.

"We're not going to be told how to live our lives by a Ghanaian."

Holmes' commentary ran in a similar theme for the rest of the broadcast, although later in the day he apologized.

Prime Minister Helen Clark distanced the country from the comments.

"That comment was completely unacceptable and demeaning of one of the world's top civil servants," she said. "I would not want New Zealand in any way to be associated with such comments."

The remarks have caused a storm of controversy, and unprecedented complaints -- 86 so far -- to the Broadcasting Standards Authority. A Human Rights Commission spokesman said it had received 10 complaints.

TVNZ was reported to have stepped up security at its Auckland headquarters Friday after a bomb scare at the studio where Holmes broadcast his attack.

Several MPs have called for the broadcaster to be sacked.

The <> said Saturday it had received messages from around the world criticizing Holmes, with many calling for his resignation.

But Newstalk ZB general manager Bill Francis said Saturday that Holmes would keep his job.

He told the Herald Holmes "doesn't have a racist bone in his body. On radio he's fought for the Tampa refugees, railed against the imprisonment [in New Zealand] of [Algerian refugee] Ahmed Zaoui and said we need to celebrate the arrival of Asians and other nationalities."

Holmes' radio show "has always had a strong element of comment, heavily laced with satire. Regular listeners know and understand this," he said.

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