Paul Henry: Did he self destruct? Or was it calculated?


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Paul Henry may have gone from our television screens, but you can hold your breath because he will be back. The question I haven’t heard asked is whether Paul increasingly lost the plot, culminating in the now infamous Governor General remark, or whether his increasingly outrageous behaviour was a coldly calculated plan to earn him headlines, get the sack and find fresh employment doing something more meaningful at TV3 sometime in the future? I suspect the latter.

That famous “Reliable Source” from whence so many journalists draw their information, have told me that as Paul became increasingly naughty, his producer was told to order him to withdraw any remark and make an apology, if it was considered he had gone too far. This was done by whispering into the microphone wedged into one of the chunky Paul Henry ears.

I am told that on the occasion of the Governor General remark, Paul steadfastly ignored all demands to take the comment back and he ploughed on with his chat with John Key.  That would indicate a certain level of determination to see the thing through to the bitter end.

During our time sharing the employment of Radio Pacific, I got to know Paul Henry quite well — about as well as it is possible to get to know this incredibly private and totally self-assured man — and the Paul Henry you get on television, or radio, is pretty much the genuine article — there’s not a lot that is fabricated for the media about him.

Yes, there is one thing. He considers himself to be a car enthusiast and expert. Frankly, he knows diddely squat and is blinded by glitter and trappings, but I never told him that in case he was embarrassed.

I quite liked the times I spent with Paul. He was always warm, but you never really got to know him apart from the fact he was incredibly self assured.

At one stage Radio Pacific teamed me up on the breakfast show with a maniac from Australia called Arch Tambakis — one of the worst broadcasters in history. I couldn’t stand working with the man and resigned. Paul Henry had been hovering around the fringe of real radio and he jumped at the chance to replace me. How he stuck it out with Arch for so long is a measure of his ability to succeed.

The thing about Paul Henry is that he is a much bigger talent than co-presenter on a hokie television breakfast show where you’ve got to chat more about flower shows and babies than do the hard news stuff. Despite the headlines and the ever increasing audience, Paul Henry is capable of far bigger things — of being the best and most important current affairs, hard news, investigative broadcaster in New Zealand. Instead he got landed with mainly froth and bubble, sitting alongside a pretty blonde who was told to only be decorative and dizzy.

Paul Henry was bored with that sort of nonsense and he hankered for being more outrageous and meaningful.

It’s almost been forgotten now, but eight years ago Paul Henry — a man of some personal wealth — funded his own operation and headed off into danger spots of the world as a roving, independent, investigative journalist who sold his reports to major outlets like the BBC, CNN — and Radio Pacific. This was a pretty gutsy move as he landed in tight and dangerous situations on more than one occasion.

I’m betting that Paul Henry really wanted Mark Sainsbury’s job on Close Up — but so too does Mike Hosking and both make a better job of that show when asked to fill in.

I’m also betting that Paul Henry will be given fresh opportunities to show his real worth and he’ll be negotiating right now for a major role, or roles — not with TVNZ who handled him badly, and totally misread not only Paul’s abilities, but actively encouraged his silliness, but with TV3. And Radio Live, which continues to struggle for ratings, is part of the same group. Is it a case of watch-out Marcus Lush and John Campbell?

Now, if you want to read more about the REAL Paul Henry, look for the next issue of NZ TODAY. It’s due in the bookshops on Monday, November the first.