A Channel Ten newsreader has apologised on air after he branded the Sydney Mardi Gras parade “disgusting”.
The interview on Ten’s Morning News on Monday between Mardi Gras co-chair Peter Urmson and newsreader Ron Wilson turned sour after what began as a general discussion about the political themes of this year’s Mardi Gras. It quickly turned into a tense back-and-forth between the two when Wilson began questioning the relevance and appropriateness of the parade in 2011.
“Some of the spectacles you’re seeing, I’m assuming would even make you cringe. It becomes an exploitation almost of a sexual image rather than trying to explore the diversity of lifestyle,” Wilson said.
“Our community is extremely colourful, and we celebrate our diversity through …” Urmson replied, before Wilson interrupted by saying “there’s a difference between colourful and disgusting”.
At one point, Wilson questioned why the gay and lesbian community was pushing same-sex marriage as an issue.
“There’s acceptance of the homosexual lifestyle. Why not let time take care of the gay marriage issue rather than pushing it?” he asked.
A clearly dumbfounded Urmson responded by saying, “Because if we don’t push for it, no one’s going to.”
Criticism of Wilson’s performance exploded on the Star Observer’s website – www.starobserver.com.au – and social media platforms, with many questioning the bizarre and uncharacteristic editorialising of what began as a fairly straightforward interview for the 35-year news veteran.
Following the backlash Wilson apologised for the interview in a statement on Monday night and on air at the end of the Tuesday morning news broadcast.
“As a journalist, my job is to present an issue from different perspectives,” Wilson said in an on air apology.
“But there is no question I could have chosen my words better. If anyone took offence at anything I said during the interview I apologise. I fully support the gay community in its campaign to promote the issue of gay marriage and I congratulate the gay and lesbian community on the success of Mardi Gras. Please take that with the upmost sincerity.”
Urmson said he was happy to accept Wilson’s apology.
“We appreciate the need for an interviewer to present contrary views and it is our roles as spokespeople to respond, however clearly a line was crossed yesterday and Ron made some highly subjective and damning comments which it is now clear he regrets,” he said in a statement.
“Furthermore we appreciate that Ron was prepared to go on record, on a personal basis, stating his support for same-sex marriage. That is something that neither major political party has to date been prepared to do. It is not something Ron needed to do, but clearly felt important to put on record.
“As far as we are concerned, it lays the matter to rest. Channel Ten has given otherwise positive coverage to this year’s Festival and Parade, and we look forward to working with them again in the future.”
Sydney gay activist Gary Burns has announced he will lodge a complaint against Wilson at the NSW Anti-Discrimination Board.
“The Mardi Gras may not be everyone’s cup of tea but surely diversity on a night like this is acceptable,” Burns said.
Ten also released a statement yesterday in regards to the comments:
“Ten Morning News featured eight minutes of overwhelmingly positive coverage of Mardi Gras. Ron Wilson congratulated organisers on the success of the 2011 event.
One small section of the interview raised a question about behaviour by some participants. The phrasing might not have been ideal, and TEN apologises if any viewers took offence.
However, it is not unreasonable for alternative views to be put to organisers and the interview talent agreed that while he didn’t hold the view, some sections of society may.”