ABC radio presenter Jon Faine has apologised for his treatment of an on-air guest with a chronic skin condition, after asking whether she was able to have sex and comparing her to a “burns’ victim”.
Carly Findlay, a writer and disability activist who has the skin condition Ichthyosis, appeared on Faine’s ABC Melbourne morning show on Wednesday to “demystify microaggressions she faces regularly”.
Faine began by asking Findlay what qualified her as a disabled person. “When we talk about disabled people what comes to mind is people in wheelchairs and that’s not you,” he said.
“I have a rare severe skin condition,” Findlay explained. “It’s very painful, but while my body sometimes fails me it’s the attitudes of society that are more disabling.”
Faine responded: “I’ve never met you before, I’m sure you’ve had this said a thousand times: You look as if you’re a burns victim almost.”
“M-hm, lots of people have said that to me,” Findlay said.
Faine continued, “Your whole face is covered with this red flush … it looks painful”.
When asked about some of the most common challenges she faces, Findlay said “scaring children” was particularly hard.
“It can’t be good on Halloween,” Faine joked in response.
Findlay also said she had encountered inconsiderate questions from strangers like, “Can you have sex?”.
“Hang on, what’s the answer?” Faine pressed, but Findlay did not respond.
Shortly after the interview with Faine and his co-host Sally Warhaft, Findlay wrote a blog post saying the discussion was “really hard” and she was “still processing” it.
“I expected to be treated better,” she wrote.
An ABC spokesperson told The New Daily on Thursday that Faine “intended no offence to Carly” but “accepts that a number of his questions and comments were insensitive”.
“[He] sincerely apologises for any distress that she has felt as a result of the interview.”
Just listened to the whole @abcmelbourne interview with @carlyfindlay Jon’s tone and comments at times were so inappropriate. 101 interviewing skills lacking Jon. Compassion for one. Thank you Carly for your work. https://t.co/aA0wTK9wun
— Julia Zemiro (@julia_zemiro) March 28, 2018
I am disappointed in @abcmelbourne and angry at Jon Faine. @carlyfindlay was subjected to a horrendously ignorant – I'd even say belligerent – interview with Faine today, and while she handled it with grace and dignity she shouldn't have had to.https://t.co/5FTNFtbr6r
— Danielle Binks (@danielle_binks) March 28, 2018
Listeners on Twitter, including prominent ABC host Julia Zemiro, slammed Faine for his line of questioning, which they said exemplified the exact attitude problems Findlay was trying to dismantle.
“Just listened to the whole @abcmelbourne interview with @carlyfindlay,” Zemiro tweeted.
“Jon’s tone and comments at times were so inappropriate. 101 interviewing skills lacking Jon. Compassion for one. Thank you Carly for your work.”
The backlash against Faine comes after ABC Melbourne radio host Red Symons apologised on-air for a 2017 interview with podcast host Beverly Wang, in which he asked her, “What’s the deal with Asians … are they all the same?”
In his apology, Symons said: “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.”
In December 2017, Symons announced he was leaving the ABC but did not provide an explicit reason for his departure.