Mitsubishi Motors' New Zealand arm on Monday withdrew its sponsorship of a TV show hosted by controversial broadcaster Paul Holmes, following a racial slur against United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan, Ireland Online (IOL) reported.

The report said Holmes, who also has a morning radio programme, said last week on the radio show that the world would not be told how to live by a Ghanaian, and referred to Annan as a "cheeky darkie".

During the same radio programme, Holmes also criticised the high number of women journalists in his profession, IOL said.

According to the report, Mitsubishi Motors New Zealand said pulling its sponsorship from the [nationally broadcast] "Holmes" television current affairs show was a matter of "principle before profits".

"The board and management find the views recently expressed by Paul Holmes regarding United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan and women journalists to be completely unacceptable and incompatible with the ethos of our company," Mitsubishi managing director John Leighton reportedly said.

According to Ireland Online, Leighton said he was astounded when he first heard of the comments about Annan.

"It was almost unbelievable," he reportedly said.

According to the report, Leighton refused to say how much the company had paid for the two-year contract, which had six months to run.

Holmes last week apologised and insisted he was not a racist, the report added.

"I should not have said what I did. It was tongue-in-cheek. It was the shock end of the spectrum - it was a bit mad probably," Holmes reportedly said.

Ireland Online said New Zealand prime minister Helen Clark disowned his words and at least two other cabinet ministers, listeners and race relations groups expressed outrage.

"That comment was completely unacceptable and demeaning of one of the world's top civil servants," Clark reportedly said. "I would not want New Zealand in any way to be associated with such comments."

According to IOL, Leighton said the apology from Holmes did little to ease the impact of the original comments.

"There are some things you can't apologise for and I am afraid some things when they are done, they are done. They cannot be undone by simply saying I am sorry," he reportedly said.

Television New Zealand said in a brief statement it regretted Mitsubishi's action.

Ireland Online noted that a Samoan-born producer on Holmes' television show resigned, apparently in protest at the comments, while other staff have asked to be moved from the show on the state [TV channel].