Culture

A Gross Article In The Australian Implies That Leigh Sales “Flirts” With The PM In Interviews

The article describes their "robust relationship" and "flirty dynamic" which everyone is supposedly talking about.

This week The Australian published an article online called ‘Leigh Sales and Malcolm Turnbull broadcast on-air chemistry’. The article is a comprehensive timeline of all the times that Leigh Sales, one of Australia’s most talented and fierce journalists, has had “a flirty dynamic” with Malcolm Turnbull during the four times she has interviewed him since he took office.

Let that sink in for a second.

Okay.

The piece, which is written by columnist Christine Lacy, is an exploration of the “unfolding robust relationship” between Leigh Sales and the Prime Minister, which according to Lacy is the main thing that has “drawn attention” since he was interviewed on 7.30 last week. To illustrate this, The Australian made a video that cut together bits from each Sales/Turnbull interview, including segments where they are laughing, when Malcolm says “tongue” or “mouth”, or when they are exchanging pleasantries like “thank you”. They also added romantic music over the top of the clip, just so you got it.

If you didn’t watch the video, they also made a meme about it.

Screen Shot 2016-05-04 at 4.35.22 pm

He “engaged” her, do you get it? Do you?

But don’t take the meme’s word for it, the article also calls on some other people to comment on whether Leigh Sales is an unprofessional fraud who is too busy having a big old crush on the Prime Minister of Australia to do her job properly! Their undying attraction for each other is further proven by secondhand quotes. Sales is quoted from a bit in Julie Zemiro’s Home Delivery where she says that Malcolm Turnbull “has got a lovely voice”, and he is quoted from Niki Savva’s book, The Road to Ruin as saying that Leigh Sales is “one of the most beautiful women on television”. Looks like an open and shut case to me!

Of course, there doesn’t seem to be much precedence for this. Tony Jones was never accused of having a crush on Julia Gillard. I can’t remember a time when people were talking about the way Laurie Oakes fell into fits of giggles every time he spoke to Tanya Plibersek. But a female journalist, well of course she would let her emotions run wild. A male journalist smiling and thanking his guest is polite, a female journalist who does the same… has a goddamn crush on the Prime Minister?

The Australian does however maintain that there are two sides to this crush. We are told that Turnbull has a “preference” for Leigh Sales’ show above all others (even Sunrise!) and that despite “much commentary on the flirty dynamic” between the two (remember the first time that Leigh Sales interviewed Turnbull and people accused of her of being too easy on him? Apparently that was flirting, woah I’ve really be doing this thing wrong) the PM’s press secretary David Bold says that he doesn’t know if this has “born out in most of the ­interviews they have done … they have never been an easy interview”. The end of the article assures readers that Leigh Sales’ husband “doesn’t seem fazed by the fuss about the Prime Minister and his wife”.

Sorry, just needed to step out of the office for a minute.

This article is dumb, but it’s also dangerous. It reveals the ways in which news outlets try to discredit women who they don’t agree with, as being silly and superficial (it’s no coincidence that they also note Leigh Sales age for no apparent reason). If you believe that Leigh Sales is motivated by having a chance to flirt with Malcolm Turnbull, then you automatically decide that her interviews with him hold no weight; that she doesn’t really care about asking the tough questions and being a good journalist, she just wants to hang out with a guy she likes like she’s a Year 11 kid at the train station after school.

Saucy, right?

One of the most affective ways of demeaning a woman is to make her seem trivial. Remember when Mike Baird compared MP Jodi McKay to a calendar pin-up? Remember when Liberal Senator David Bushby “meowed” at Penny Wong? For many people, when it comes to critiquing female professionals they want to take down a peg, they have a choice of a two moves: 1. make fun of the way she looks, and 2. point out her ‘weak’ female impulses (like being too emotional). Looks like they chose the second one this time.

Ugh. Now let’s forget that this crummy day ever happened, hey?