The Guardian:– Sky News has terminated the contract of its late-night presenter Ross Cameron for using racist language to describe Chinese people.
Cameron, a co-host of Outsiders, which is shown on Sky and free-to-air television, described Chinese people as “black-haired, slanty-eyed, yellow-skinned” during a 30 October broadcast.
The activist group Sleeping Giants Oz, which aims to hold the media accountable by targeting advertisers who sponsor at-times problematic programs, published the clip on social media, where it was quickly picked up by the former race commissioner Tim Soutphommasane.
The former Labor minister Craig Emerson, who quit Sky News as a commentator after it ran an interview with the far-right extremist Blair Cottrell in August, also lashed out at the broadcaster for continuing to support Cameron.
Advertisers including Qantas, which continues to show the channel in its airport lounges, came under pressure on Friday to ditch their sponsorship of Sky News, which is still recovering from controversies including hosting Cottrell, who holds Nazi sympathies, on one of its (now axed) programs.
The new Sky News chief, Paul Whittaker, announced on Friday afternoon that Cameron had been let go. “I have today advised Ross Cameron that his contract with Sky News has been terminated,” he said in a statement.
“Sky News is committed to robust discussion and debate, however this language is totally unacceptable and has no place on any of our platforms, nor in modern Australian society.”
The 30 October program was removed from Sky News platforms on Friday morning.
Cameron told 2GB on Friday afternoon he was “happy to apologise” for the remarks, which he described as “clumsy”.
“I think it was clumsy and it could have been done better and it was a failure on my part, definitely,” he said.
If you read the comments in their totality represent the single strongest defence of the Chinese made by any public figure in Australia for the last several months. There was absolutely no intention to offend, but I am happy to apologise for it, for anyone who has taken offence.”
Cameron made the remarks while defending China against allegations it was attempting to infiltrate Australia’s intelligence network.
“And I am just saying to you the Chinese civilisation is the oldest continuing civilisation in the world, OK, it is not going anywhere,” he said.
“1.4 billion people – it has got about a sixth of the world’s population. All of them are studying English.
“If you go to the Disneyland in Shanghai, on any typical morning of the week, you’ll see 20,000 black-haired, slanty-eyed, yellow-skinned Chinese, desperate to get into Disneyland because they like and enjoy and embrace many aspects of western culture.”
The show, which Cameron co-hosted with Rowan Dean, has been no stranger to controversy, most recently apologising for comments David Leyonhjelm made about Sarah Hanson-Young while a guest.
Cameron is the second Outsiders host to be fired; Mark Latham’s hosting contract was terminated shortly after the show launched in March 2017 after he called a teenager “gay” for taking part in an International Womens’ Day campaign.
Cameron, who served as the Liberal MP for Parramatta between 1996 and 2004, was suspended from the party for five years for comments he made last year about Gladys Berejiklian.
He had previously referred to the New South Wales Liberals as “basically a gay club” and labelled the Sydney Morning Herald the “Sydney Morning Homosexual” during the marriage equality debate.
Outsiders had prided itself on offering the “outsiders’ view of politics” but struggled to find a mainstream audience. It had recently shifted from its Monday to Thursday 8pm time slot to 11pm on Sky News’s Foxtel channel and free-to-air regional network, WIN.
Dr Dvir Abramovich, chairman of the Anti-Defamation Commission, Australia’s leading civil rights organisation, issued the following statement:
“The bold and swift response by Sky News sends an important and powerful message that racist statements, in particular from public figures are clearly out of bounds and that there will a high price to be paid for such unacceptable and hurtful behaviour. We strongly agree with Paul Whittaker’s unequivocal statement that there is no place on Sky News for bigoted expressions and that such conduct will be taken seriously and has consequences. We also welcome the apology by Mr Ross and hope that his regret will serve as a teachable moment to others about the harm caused, and about the need to disavow both the language and the sentiment behind such remarks.”
Cameron was contacted by Guardian Australia but said he had no immediate comment.