UPDATE: Jeanne Moos, the CNN journalist behind a controversial news report on the welcome of British Royals to New Zealand, has apologised for any offence caused.
“Duly noted,” she said.
“I do humour and satire, and I am truly sorry if the tone of my story offended anyone.”
Her apology followed the launch of a Change.org petition saying the reporter’s “blatant disregard for, and insensitive commentary concerning, the Maori culture and its customs are inadmissible”.
The leader of the petititon, student Jay Evett, told Radio Australia that he remains unimpressed by the apology.
“Her apology was, to say the least, lacklustre,” Mr Evett said. “She didn’t actually apologise for the content of her report, rather the tone and if people took offence to her tone.”
The petition has already gathered more than 25,000 signatures.
Yesterday, Mamamia reported:
This weekend, American news network CNN came to the Culturally Insensitive Party and danced everyone else off the floor. Their coverage of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge’s ongoing tour of New Zealand wasn’t so much ignorant as it was downright offensive.
Take a look:
Yep. That really just happened.
Forget wearing a native American Indian headdress at music festivals, the use of traditional designs on cheap throwaway teenage clothing or even chain store fashion lines called ‘Go Native’. At least (if they’re defensible at all), these examples are thoroughly misguided attempts to appreciate religion and culture. CNN’s reporting of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge’s traditional greeting by Māori elders in New Zealand? It’s just out-and-out mocking.
There isn’t even a half-hearted attempt at respecting or understanding of the culturally significant ceremony being performed. Watching the video leaves the viewer with an uncomfortable sense of having been transported back to primary school; pointing and laughing at the classmate who is just a little bit different.
Now – even though it’s hard to know where to start – let’s attempt to break all this offensiveness down, shall we?
The video opens with references to a traditionally dressed Māori warrior as ‘the royal bummer’, which is terrifically funny and witty because of course the warrior’s buttocks was exposed.
But while being bare-bottomed might not be the state of dress the Duchess of Cambridge is used to being greeted in; the exposure of the warrior’s leg and buttocks tattoos is highly cogent.
As The Guardian reports:
The warrior’s taurape (buttocks tattoo) and puhoro (thigh tattoo) emphasises the engine room of the warrior’s body, says Māori tattoo expert Tim Worrall. “The largest muscles, the means by which the warrior remains agile.”
The patterns seen are commonly associated with warriors and, says Worrall, “express his essential vitality”. There’s the motif of the koru, the end of an unfolding fern, representing connection to the natural world.
CNN’s response to this man’s show of strength and power: Play a bizarre part-parrot, part-computerised squawking sound and ask “Is that any way to welcome a future king and queen?”
Well, yes actually, it is.
Prince William and the Duchess of Cambridge were greeted with a traditional Māori welcome called a pōwhiri. The pōwhiri is a ceremony involving singing and dancing that is performed to welcome visitors onto the sacred land outside a Māori meeting house. The gods, the earth and ancestors are acknowledged and new guests and their hosts are joined together as one.
Both the future King and Queen of England (thankfully) showed a tad more respect for Māori culture than CNN.
The Duchess of Cambridge wore a silver fern broach (New Zealand’s national symbol) and a red coat; a nod to the red ochre that people of high standing are traditionally covered in during the pōwhiri.
And Prince William followed the careful instructions of his interpreter to maintain eye-contact with the warrior, as he picked up a dart that was placed on the ground before him (a critical element in the determination of whether visitors are friends or foe).
Perhaps the most degrading moment of the news report is when the journalist actually rubs her nose into the camera, teasing the hongi greeting of the Māoris. “Forget merely rubbing shoulders with the royals,” she laughs before footage of Kate Middleton rubbing noses with officials is played, accompanied by another strange honking noise.
Now for us Australians, who are regularly treated to the traditional welcomes of our own Indigenous peoples at important occasions, seeing a ceremony like the pōwhiri is perhaps less unusual than it is for CNN’s American audience. But that is no excuse for the shameful reporting displayed in the video above.
Just because an event is different from what you are used to or outside your prism of experience, doesn’t mean it is something to be laughed at. And when you’re a national broadcaster, you have a duty to help inform and educate your viewers; to help them understand the context of the news they are watching.
CNN’s coverage was an insult to those who gave up their time to so generously welcome the royal couple to New Zealand. And it was also insulting to the intelligence of their American viewers; who deserved more from that news report than an appeal to base ignorance.
Do you think the CNN should apologise for their coverage?