A twenty-minute live television debate has aired in India debating whether or not Paul Henry should be sacked over his mimicking of the name of the Delhi chief minister, Sheila Dikshit.
"This man seems like a racist and we can't have racists on TV," the host said.
But another commentator in the debate said Henry had done nothing different to what's already gone on before - by Indians.
"I think India has overblown the whole matter. "Frankly speaking this was intended as a joke. University students have been making jokes about Ms Dikshit's name for decades," senior journalist Karan Thapar said.
"She probably thrives on the popularity it gives her. I recall one of her namesakes J N Dikshit, a former national security advisor of this government, saying publicly that he has been blessed with a name that can twice be mispronounced and made mischief with, and he added on both occasions 'whenever that happens I benefit from it'. That's the spirit in which we should have taken it."
But the host of the debate said the comments reflected a
"mindset" that needed to be dealt with. That opinion has been
reflected on the front page of several Indian newspapers
The Indian government has denounced Henry's remarks as racist, prompting last night's apology from New Zealand's High Commissioner Rupert Holborow.
But a Close Up poll tonight showed most viewers don't agree with apologising. Of the almost 20,000 who voted, 82 percent disagreed that an apology was necessary.
Foreign Minister Murray McCully earlier today confirmed that the Indian government had formally complained about the remarks from Henry.
Prime Minister John Key said this afternoon that Henry's "poorly designed humour has ended up embarrassing New Zealand. For that I am regretful".
The relationship with India is an important one for New Zealand, the Prime Minister said. However, he said it was not up to the government to intervene as it was the responsibility of TVNZ and the Broadcasting Standards Authority to handle the issue.
McCully said he would indicate to the Indian government that the comments were the actions of one person, made in a country in which freedom of speech is an important foundation principle.
But he said it is always regrettable when a prominent individual abuses the freedom of expression to cause offence to others.
"That is especially the case when the person offended against is a prominent public figure in another country," McCully said.
McCully said he will make it clear to the Indian government that TVNZ operates independently from the New Zealand government and any action against Henry is a matter for the company or the Broadcasting Standards Authority.
High level apology
New Zealand's High Commissioner last night apologised to India's foreign ministry over the on air comments made by Henry. Rupert Holborow said in a statement that he deeply regretted the hurt the comments had caused, saying they were "culturally insensitive, inappropriate and vulgar".
He said the comments were not the views of the New Zealand government or people.
Holborow was summoned to India's Ministry of External Affairs over Henry's mimicking of Dikshit's name.
Henry commented that the name was appropriate because she was Indian.
Holborow said there is never a case for making "hurtful remarks of this nature".
"New Zealand highly values its relationship with India and we pride ourselves on being a welcoming, tolerant and inclusive society."
Currently more than 100,000 New Zealanders are of Indian ethnic origin, the second-largest immigrant group from Asia, after China.
Key believes the High Commissioner has done the right thing by apologising over Henry's slurs.
Key said New Zealand's relationship with India is important and he wouldn't want to see that compromised. He said he supports the suspension of Henry and the situation highlights how careful people in those types of positions need to be.
Auckland's Indian radio station, Radio Tarana, is being inundated with outraged callers who say friends in India can't believe the broadcaster's comments. Chief Executive Robert Khan said they want to see more action from TVNZ chief executive Rick Ellis.
A TVNZ spokeswoman said today: "Our government has not been in contact with us on the issue, but if they require any further information or assistance then of course we will provide it".
She said the company was working through the statutory complaints process and hoped to complete the task more quickly than legally required in order to get some resolution.
Meanwhile, New Zealand athletes don't appear to be receiving any backlash from Henry's comments. Chef de mission Dave Currie said the team has been busy and he has not noticed anyone getting hassled over the remarks.