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Liberty Belle: Paul Holmes Apologised!

Deborah Coddington's Liberty Belle

Paul Holmes Apologised!

What is it with this country that when someone makes a mistake we won't accept their apology, but insist on hounding them into the ground?

I remember an incident when the Gisborne inquiry into the debacle over cervical smear test results by Dr Bottrill was taking place. Women affected by misreads, who'd justifiably pushed for an inquiry, demanded Dr Bottrill front up before the commissioner.

Fair enough, but when a clearly frail and disoriented Dr Bottrill did front and apologise, the women turned their backs on him and refused to acknowledge his presence. The television cameras just happened to be on hand to film this for the six o'clock news deadline.

When Graham Parry made a serious mistake in his treatment of Paihia woman Colleen Poutsma, who later tragically died of cervical cancer, he was villified for over a year. At one stage, some anonymous coward wrote, "Parry murderer" on the footpath outside the wrong house in Whangarei.

And now we have a group of "eminent academics" behind a petition to get Paul Holmes out of his broadcasting career.

These three men are not criminals. They acknowledged their failings. They all said if they had their time over again they would do it differently. But that's not enough for some people. They don't seem to be satisfied until their quarry gives in and blow their brains out.

Why can't we look at the many good and decent things people like this have done in their careers, instead of focussing intensely and exclusively on the times they've fallen at their fences?

I was on radio with Willie Jackson last week, and he pointed out several salient points. One, he said, Paul Holmes has come out to Maori radio stations and freely given hours of his time to broadcast to their listeners.

Have Michael Neil, Jane Kelsey, or any of the other "eminent academics" ever done the same?

(As an aside, I'm growing increasingly suspicious of these petitions signed by "eminent" people - do "ordinary" people not count any more?)

I personally know of many random acts of kindness Paul Holmes has shown to others - in private, away from publicity, and to women. I won't embarrass him or the recipients by disclosing them, but he is not a racist and he is not a sexist.

There are racist and sexist remarks in all of us, and if we're honest, we'll acknowledge that. We make Irish jokes. We curse Asian drivers; little old ladies, or men in hats. We laughed and laughed at Fawlty Towers' "Don't Mention the War" episode, which poked fun at Germans - did we demand John Cleese's resignation?

No, because our sense of humour kicked in. But the last two weeks showed that we're in danger of losing our sense of humour. It's a nonsense to allege that Holmes has "irrevocably damaged New Zealand's international reputation" as the academics claim. When Pam Corkery went on radio and called George Bush "dumb and dumber" there wasn't an outcry, followed by weeks of handwringing from "eminent academics". Somehow it seems to be different when it's the head of the United Nations being mocked. I wonder why.

And when I was quoted in the Christchurch Press last week, referring to some male Labour MPs in the House as "puerile" for the stupid remarks they make which they think are hilariously funny, I wasn't aware of any men approaching The Speaker demanding I resign because my sexist comments made them unable to work in Parliament. But this is what some women reporters in Auckland have done.

I call this behaviour 'letting the side down'. Women are still so feeble and pathetic they have to run to their bosses, or the government, for help when someone makes a sarcastic remark about their monthly behaviour. Doesn't that just prove Holmes' point? If they really want equality, they have to earn it and stop behaving like weaklings.

And it really makes you wonder - their lives must be so cushy that all they've got to worry about are stupid throwaway lines by Paul Holmes. And I hate to sound depressing, but I doubt this will end soon. We can look forward to bans on words like 'fatty arbuckle'; fatty and skinny jokes; books like Little Black Sambo; Enid Blyton's naughty gollies; and men who make us laugh.

Yours in Liberty
Deborah Coddington

- Liberty Belle is a column from Deborah Coddington, Member of Parliament for ACT New Zealand.

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