Paul Henry, the co-host of TVNZ's Breakfast programme, has announced his resignation from the broadcaster effective immediately.
His resignation follows continued controversy over remarks he made on-air about New Zealand's Governor-General and a prominent Indian politician.
Henry was suspended after questioning, during an interview with Prime Minister John Key, whether Sir Anand Satyanand was "even a New Zealander".
Controversy over Henry's antics then escalated into a diplomatic row after the emergence of a clip in which Henry was seen to mock Delhi's chief minister, Sheila Dikshit (pronounced "Dixit"), by repeatedly mispronouncing her name and appearing to make a racial slur against Indians.
Today, Henry declared that he could not go on in his role as Breakfast's presenter.
"It is no longer practical in the current environment for me to do the job I was employed to do, and have so enjoyed doing. It is also difficult for TVNZ to get on with the business of being a first class broadcaster as long as I remain," he said in a statement issued by TVNZ this afternoon.
"I have apologised twice, and have meant every word. I again apologise to all those who were genuinely hurt by what I said. However, it is clear that things have now reached a point where my actions will have to speak louder than my words."
In his statement, he blamed the "tabloid media" for bringing about the controversy surrounding the racial implications of his remarks.
"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 to have my elderly mother staked out at her nursing home by tabloid media, as has happened this weekend."
'Divisive debate and continuing hurt'
In a separate statement, TVNZ's chief executive Rick Ellis said that Henry had "done the right thing" by resigning from his post. He reiterated earlier statements of apology from the broadcaster, and said that editorial policies and the code of conduct for on-air personalities would now be re-evaluated.
"I offer my sincere apology on behalf of myself and TVNZ, to all those who have been offended by Paul’s inappropriate on-air comments. I will be apologising in person to the Governor General. I also apologise to the Indian community, both here and in India."
Ellis said that while the broadcaster had received many messages of support for the controversial presenter, the "divisive debate and continuing hurt for others" made it untenable for Henry to continue.
"As an organisation committed to the principals [sic] of free speech it is our job to steer a course between the sometimes conflicting demands of freedom of opinion and respect for others.
"This is not always easy. However what is clear as an outcome of this episode is that any suggestion of racism, whether intended or not, is unacceptable. We are quite clear about that."
How the controversy developed
The fallout from Henry's conduct has been a public relations disaster for TVNZ, a process compounded by its own botched handling of the controversy.
On Monday, Henry was blasted by politicians and public figures after questioning the ethnicity of the Governor-General.
The initial decision to issue a statement which appeared to endorse Henry's remarks about Sir Anand prompted Andi Brotherston, TVNZ's public relations manager, to offer her resignation earlier in the week. Henry was suspended the day after his comments and TVNZ's statement were made.
But on an international scale, the revelation that TVNZ was continuing to promote a clip in which Henry ridiculed the name of Delhi's chief minister attracted the most attention - and did the most damage. In the video, Henry repeatedly mispronounced Ms Dikshit's name and said that it was "so appropriate, because she's Indian".
After the embarrassing video surfaced, the Indian Government summoned New Zealand's High Commissioner Rupert Holborow to convey a formal note of protest regarding Henry's conduct. India's top media outlets also carried the story, launching strong criticism of Henry and TVNZ.
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