Sky News has apologised for putting to air “appalling” comments by Senator David Leyonhjelm directed at Greens Senator Sarah Hanson-Young.
On Sunday’s episode of Outsiders, Senator Leyonhjelm alluded to rumours about Senator Hanson-Young’s private life, prompting an immediate backlash from viewers on social media.
Senator Leyonhjelm was invited on to the program because, earlier in the week, he had shouted “stop shagging men, Sarah” while Senator Hanson-Young was debating a motion to allow women to carry weapons for self-defence.
Many viewers were doubly upset because the Senator’s comments on Sunday were not only broadcast but also summarised in on-screen subtitles.
Sky News later issued a public apology to Senator Hanson-Young, both for broadcasting the “appalling comments” and “for highlighting them in an on-screen strap”.
“A producer has been suspended pending an internal investigation,” the statement read.
The suspension caused further outrage, with some commentators arguing it was unfair to target a lower-level employee.
Current Sky News presenter David Speers said the comments were sexist and “should have been called out” by the program’s hosts. Former Sky News presenter Peter van Onselen said it was “far from the first incident of slander and offence” on Outsiders.
After the program went to air and amid the backlash, Senator Leyonhjelm retweeted a message on Twitter criticising Senator Hanson-Young for using “rape as a cheap political point”.
In a piece for The Guardian after the initial “shagging” comment, Senator Hanson-Young wrote that Senator Leyonhjelm had not denied making the comment and had told her to “f—- off” when she confronted him about it.
“I was shaken, not because of what he said necessarily, but because I knew I had just for the first time, in my own workplace, decided to stand up for myself, and draw a line in the sand,” Senator Hanson-Young wrote.
“For years I have winced and tried not to flinch at innuendos about my dress, my face (being told by older men that I don’t smile at them enough) and my apparent sex life.
“What started as mutterings while I would be on my feet speaking, or during a debate, slowly over the years has become slurs that are now shouted across the chamber floor.”
Outsiders is hosted by former Liberal MP Ross Cameron and The Spectator editor Rowan Dean. Neither of the hosts have commented publicly on Sunday’s incident.