“In what can only be described as a new low for public broadcasters in New Zealand, Paul Henry giggled like an ignorant schoolboy as he read out how British singer Susan Boyle became impaired at birth as a result of oxygen deprivation and described her as ‘retarded’. This is an outdated term to describe learning/intellectual impairment and it has recently become a term of abuse which is used in a negative and subjective manner against people with intellectual and learning disabilities,” said Mr Ford.
Mr Ford is astounded that Mr Henry cannot understand why anyone would take offence at his performance and is himself complaining of being a victim of an orchestrated campaign by the IHC whom, he claims, wishes to deny him his freedom of speech. “This has nothing to do with freedom of speech. The way Paul Henry carried on was simply abusive. Freedom of speech does not give the right to publicly abuse or denigrate a whole sector of the population,” he said.
The Alliance Party believes that Paul Henry may consider himself less victimised if he knew how people with learning/intellectual impairment have been shunned by society. In earlier centuries and up until recent times, people with a learning impairment were institutionalised and/or kept locked away in family homes. In the last thirty years, though, people with intellectual/learning disabilities have been fighting back and claiming their rights as full citizens. As a progressive, left-wing party, the Alliance has always supported the fight against oppression waged by marginalized groups such as disabled people.
Furthermore, Mr Ford emphasized that Paul Henry’s appalling behaviour on public television was highly offensive to disabled people, their families and friends.
“The behavior of Mr Henry and ignorant others simply undermines the efforts of disabled people and their allies to improve community attitudes towards disability. Given the apparent lack of insight, TVNZ should have no option but to terminate his contract. Following his other faux pas, including commenting on Greenpeace campaigner Stephanie Mills facial hair earlier this year, our public broadcaster should meet its legislative mandate to be a socially responsible state enterprise and do so.”
Mr Ford has also, as an individual, complained to TVNZ about Mr Henry’s behaviour and is currently awaiting (as are countless others) a formal response.