ABC radio host Red Symons has apologised after he “came across as racist” for asking “what’s the deal with Asians?”
He also asked Beverley Wang, a producer on Radio National and host of the It’s Not A Race podcast, if she was “yellow”.
Symons responded to the outrage on his ABC Melbourne Radio program on Monday morning, a week after the interview went to air.
“Last week on the program I spoke to Beverley Wang about her new podcast, It’s Not A Race,” he said.
“The plan was to take on a serious topic, race and culture, and talk with Beverley about a range of related issues.
“I came across as racist and I was wrong in the way I conducted the interview.
“This is not who I am, but I acknowledge on this occasion I caused offence and hurt, not only to Beverley but also to our listeners.
“I offer my sincerest apologies. We need to talk about these issues, but be careful we consider them.”
However, some listeners felt the apology did not go far enough.
Broadcaster and journalist Marc Fennell said the apology was akin to saying “I’m sorry you’re offended”.
— Marc Fennell (@MarcFennell) June 18, 2017
The ABC had earlier apologised for the incident and removed the podcast. The ABC said it was undertaking a review of their editorial processes.
The interview led to calls for the ABC to sack Symons, who in the offending interview had asked Ms Wang whether she was “yellow” and if Asian people are “all the same”. He also asked: “What’s the deal with Asians?”
The former Hey, Hey It’s Saturday star also defended the variety show’s infamous 2009 blackface controversy.
So ABC response to Red Symons situation:
– Delete all trace of it
– Symons says sorry for being racist
– Business as usual
— Osman Faruqi (@oz_f) June 18, 2017
The incident saw a group perform a Jackson Five skit in blackface, to which Symons told Wang: “And there is apparently a blanket caveat against that?
“I remember thinking at the time that it had become uncomfortable because Harry Connick Jr felt most uncomfortable with someone wearing what is alleged to be blackface,” he said.
“Why is it alleged to be blackface?” Wang replied.
“Well, because there was white face and there was brown face and there was black face. There was a variety of faces,” Symons said.
Federal MP Linda Burney said the interview was offensive and “clearly not acceptable”, but she did not think Symons should be sacked.
Tim Soutphommasane, Australia’s Race Discrimination Commissioner, on Saturday said “we can talk about race and do it with respect”.
“Too often racism is tolerated as banter rather than being called out,” Mr Soutphommasane said.
On Sunday, advocacy group Media Diversity Australia (MDA) said Symons showed “cultural insensitivity” and the interview “was not conducted in the spirit of inclusion”.
“An exchange like this between a senior media personality and a producer like Beverley Wang demonstrates the kinds of barriers journalists from culturally diverse backgrounds can face,” MDA co-founder Isabel Lo said.
“It is situations like this that show how the mainstream media in Australia does not accurately represent, and often misunderstands, our multicultural society.”
The New Daily has contacted Ms Wang, ABC and Ms Burney for comment. Mr Soutphommasane was not available to comment on the apology.