Sky News Australia has responded to a viewer backlash by admitting it was “wrong” to air an interview with far-right nationalist Blair Cottrell and has removed the footage from its platforms.
The interview, conducted on Sunday night by Sky host and former Northern Territory chief minister Adam Giles, sparked outrage across social media.
Within hours of the interview going to air and being shared on various Sky News social media platforms, the channel removed the interview from its repeat timeslots and online platforms.
Former Labor minister Craig Emerson was so incensed he tweeted that he had quit the channel as a regular commentator.
I have advised @SkyNewsAust that I have quit as a Sky commentator. My father fought Nazis in WWII and was interred in a German POW camp. The decision to allow Neo-Nazi Blair Cotterell onto the channel was another step in a journey to normalising racism & bigotry in our country.
— Craig Emerson (@DrCraigEmerson) August 6, 2018
The interview was also criticised by two high profile Sky hosts, David Speers and Laura Jayes.
“It was wrong to have Blair Cottrell on Sky News Australia,” Sky News news director Greg Byrnes tweeted late Sunday night after the interview when to air after 6pm.
“His views do not reflect ours. The interview has been removed from repeat timeslots and online platforms.”
Sky news presenter Ms Jayes branded Mr Cottrell “just an a—hole” while political editor David Speers tweeted he “100%” agreed with Ms Jayes.
I have just arrived back in the country tonight to be met with the understandable outrage over this. 100% agree with @ljayes. As News Director Greg Byrnes says it was wrong to have this guy on Sky News. https://t.co/QQF4ESRmbJ
— David Speers (@David_Speers) August 5, 2018
Mr Cottrell, who has controversially suggested a picture of Adolf Hitler be hung in every Australian classroom, attacked the decision as “pathetic” and accused Sky of caving in to “Leftist abuse”.
During the interview, the former United Patriots Front leader called for immigration cutbacks and warned against “foreign ideologies” in Australian society.
Mr Cottrell, a self-employed Melbourne builder, also said he believed Australians lacked national pride.
Race discrimination commissioner Tim Soutphommasane called the interview a “shameful low”.
We’ve come not to expect much from the nocturnal programming at @SkyNewsAust — but featuring a neo-Nazi with a history of crime and violence is a shameful low. It also highlights how extremists are being dangerously accommodated by sections of the Australian media pic.twitter.com/NUffO2DbXQ
— Tim Soutphommasane (@timsout) August 5, 2018
“It also highlights how extremists are being dangerously accommodated by sections of the Australian media,” he said.
Federal Labor MP Tim Watts asked why Mr Cottrell was described by Sky as an “activist”, tweeting: “Why is a man who has said he wants to see a portrait of Adolf Hitler hung in Australian classrooms and for copies of Mein Kampf to be ‘issued annually’ to students being given a platform?”.
NSW Greens upper house MP David Shoebridge said he would decline to be interviewed on Sky until it gave a “full apology”.
“I hope my Greens colleagues, and all MPs who care about decency, will join me,” he tweeted on Sunday.
Mr Cottrell was found guilty of inciting contempt for Muslims in September 2017 after he and two other far-right nationalists uploaded a video on the United Patriots Front Facebook page of a mock beheading to protest against the building of a mosque in Bendigo.
Despite the so-called “Bendigo Three” arguing the video was an act of free speech, the magistrate found it was clearly intended to create serious contempt for or ridicule of Muslims.
Mr Cottrell is appealing against that decision in the High Court.