Politics

Sky News Presenters Are Slamming Rowan Dean’s Race-Based Attack On Tim Soutphommasane

"It's pathetic and it's low but sadly it's not new."

A number of Sky News presenters have publicly criticised Outsiders host Rowan Dean for his racially-charged comments attacking the Race Discrimination Commissioner, Tim Soutphommasane.

On Sunday Dean criticised the Australian Human Rights Commission’s push for greater diversity in business, politics and the media by telling Soutphommasane to “hop on a plane and go back to Laos.”

Soutphommasane’s parents fled Laos as refugees in 1975 though he was born in France.

“Tim’s family escaped from Laos via Paris and came and settled in Australia… and I’m sure they didn’t mind coming to a country where Anglo-Celtics had died, given their lives, to create the peace loving culture that we have,” Dean said. “Tim, if you don’t like it, join Yassmin, hop on a plane and go back to Laos.”

Yesterday some Sky News presenters used Twitter to distance themselves from Dean’s comments.

The anchor of PVO NEWSDAY, Peter Van Onselen, posted “I believe in greater diversity. And no, I don’t think I should have to go back to the Netherlands because that’s my view.”

Another Sky presenter, Patricia Karvelas, said she was “a big fan of diversity too”.

Sky’s chief political reporter, Kieran Gilbert, described Dean’s comments as “pathetic” and “low”.

In a follow-up tweet Gilbert condemned Dean’s attack on Soutphommasane as “reprehensible”.

Junkee has contacted Sky News CEO Angelos Frangopoulos but we’re yet to receive a reply.

The co-founder of Media Diversity Australia, Antoinette Lattouf, told Junkee that “A more culturally diverse media would create platforms for other voices to challenge intolerant views like those expressed on Sky New’s Outsiders program.”

“There seems to be double standards as to what is inappropriate conduct by media personalities,” she said. “There can be a media storm and social media outrage towards some, and then Rowan Dean tells our Race Discrimination Commissioner to essentially ‘go back to where you come from’ and there’s radio silence.”

Lattouf’s comments accurately capture the media and political response, or lack of it, to Dean’s comments. While media outlets and politicians were quick to condemn Yassmin Abdel-Magied for her Anzac Day Facebook post, there’s been a muted response to Dean’s race-based attack on Soutphommasane.

Osman Faruqi is Junkee’s News and Politics Editor. 

He is member of Media Diversity Australia’s executive committee.