‘Sunrise’ Tried To Fact-Check Pauline Hanson And It Was A Complete Trainwreck

Congratulations Australian breakfast television, you've done it again.

Want more Junkee in your life? Sign up to our newsletter, and follow us on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook so you always know where to find us.

Sunrise has copped a lot of heat this year over their decision to pay Pauline Hanson to appear on the show in the lead up to the election. Hanson’s regular Sunrise appearances helped boost her profile and provided a nice, friendly outlet for her anti-Muslim policies.

After her incendiary first speech last night laying into Muslims, as well as immigrants generally, Sunrise decided to invite Hanson back onto the show this morning to defend her remarks. But this time it looked like the hosts, David ‘Kochie’ Koch and Natalie Barr, were trying to make amends for their show’s unashamed Hanson boosterism. After pumping her up all year and seeking out her hot takes in response to terrorist attacks, it looked as though Kochie and Barr might actually try and contest Hanson’s racist views.

Barr kicked off the interview by asking Hanson whether or not Muslims were really “swamping” Australia given the most recent census showed only 2.2 percent of the country’s population were Muslim. Hanson’s comeback? “Well, I’ve read 2.4 percent.” OH SHIT. Mic drop! A whole extra 0.2 percent is the difference between being a small religious minority and “swamping” Australia, apparently.

But Hanson didn’t stop there, claiming that “They’re having a lot of children as well”, bizarrely citing the Lebanese civil war as evidence that Muslims could eventually out-populate Christians in Australia. I’m no expert on the Lebanese civil war (neither is Hanson, for that matter) but I’m pretty sure the level of relevance it has to contemporary Australia is zero. So far so good Sunrise. You’ve let her double down and expand on her comments attacking Muslims.

Here’s where it got really weird. Kochie’s body language made it look like he’d had enough. He was winding up a full on, Waleed Aly-esque take down of Hanson’s bigotry. So what did he say? “Pauline, I agree with a lot of what you are saying. I would drive migrants back to the airport with you if they did not respect this country and our culture. It is a privilege to come here.” 

Nooooo Kochie! That’s not how it’s supposed to work! You’re supposed to interview her and expose her deeply illogical arguments, not agree with her! He backed up the comments by saying, “Where it upsets me is that you package it up in such a hateful, divisive way that affects so many other lives that I don’t think you really care about or understand.”

Okay, so Kochie agrees with Hanson’s main argument that we should be driving migrants to the airport, but he’s just worried that the idea is being expressed in a hateful way? Maybe the “hateful” thing is the actual concept of booting migrants out of the country rather than how it’s being packaged up? If you’re so keen to set up some sort of weird Kochie-Hanson valet service, maybe get off Sunrise and try and pitch your idea to Shark Tank.

Kochie then talked about his Sri Lankan son-in-law who gets racially abused on the street, and accused Hanson of feeding into that kind of behaviour. “You give permission to those people to do that. These are just wonderful families who have moved here. They looked different to you and they looked different to me, but it is Australia,” he said. A few seconds later he appeared to agree with Hanson’s call to deport the Grand Mufti, calling for people Hanson identified as dangerous to be “booted out”.

Barr jumped in to suggest that “A lot of people agree with you [Hanson]”, and again Kochie went out of his way to clarify, “So do I!”. Barr then appealed for Kochie and Hanson to come up with a solution that involved “Meeting in the middle”. What? In the middle of racist rhetoric and slightly less racist rhetoric?

If this was Sunrise and Kochie’s attempt to take it up to Hanson it was a complete and utter failure. Hot tip, if you’re trying to expose someone for their racist views, try and say “I agree with you” a lot less. The whole ordeal highlighted what is so wrong with Sunrise’s approach to Hanson. They seem more interested in creating further controversy than actually challenging anything she says, even if it’s demonstrably false. The best they could do, in terms of a debate around her policies, was put her up against a guy who agreed with most of what she said, but thought she should be a bit more subtle about it.

Congratulations Australian breakfast television, you’ve done it again.