Fairfax apologises to Stynes and Negus over articles on ‘dud root’ soldier comments

Fairfax Media has apologised to Yumi Stynes and George Negus two-and-a-half years after the pair were vilified for making what appeared to be disparaging comments about an Australian war hero on defunct Channel Ten chat show The Circle.

Stynes and Negus were bombarded with abuse after appearing to question the sexual prowess and intelligence of Victoria Cross recipient Cpl Ben Roberts-Smith on a show in early 2012, and the issue was reported widely across the Australian media.

However, on Saturday an apology appeared in the Sydney Morning Herald and also in The Age addressed to Stynes and Negus conceding aspects of its coverage at the time were wrong:

“In 2012 Fairfax publications asserted in a number of articles that Yumi Stynes and George Negus had made derogatory comments regarding the sexual character of Victoria Cross recipient Cpl Ben Roberts-Smith and his use of IVF procedures. The discussion occurred on The Circle television chat show. Our interpretation was wrong and we accept that both Mr Negus and Ms Stynes were not referring to Cpl Roberts-Smith personally, but to strongly built men generally. We apologise for the error.”

The incident occured after a shirtless photo of the decorated soldier in a swimming pool was shown, with Stynes suggesting he would have to “dive to the bottom on the pool to see if his brain is there”, leading to comments from Negus who said “I’m sure he’s a really good bloke, nothing about poor old Ben, but that sort of bloke, what if they’re not up to it in the sack?”. Stynes then quipped “are you intimating George Negus he could be a dud root?”.

The Circle, Channel 10, Stynes and Negus all apologised after a deluge of complaints from viewers, while advertisers, including Mirvac Hotels and Resorts, Yoplait, Swisse Vitamins, Jamaica Blue and Big 4 Holiday Parks, deserted the show in protest. The Circle was axed later in 2012.

It is unclear why the matter took so long to resolve, although it is understood Stynes and Negus only recently took the matter up with Fairfax.

At the time, Negus insisted he had not specifically been referring to Roberts-Smith but to “blokes in general”.

“I still felt a need to apologise because so many people thought that I had [been referring specifically to Corporal Roberts-Smith],” he told The Project.

Stynes meanwhile, who took the brunt of the criticism and was publicly vilified for her remarks, also apologised on The Project but was then attacked for being insincere.

Fairfax declined to comment.

Steve Jones


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