Ten’s The Circle is facing a growing backlash over offensive comments its presenters made about decorated war hero Ben Roberts-Smith.
Despite an on air apology from presenter Yumi Stynes for the banter she and guest George Negus swapped over the soldier’s intellect and sex life, public anger appears to be growing online. At the time of posting both Negus and Stynes were in the top ten trending topics on Twitter.
The furore has also been fuelled by coverage on TV, online and on talkback radio.
Ten said in a statement: “Network Ten apologises for the comments made on The Circle yesterday surrounding Victoria cross recipient Ben Roberts-Smith. We recognises he is a highly decorated soldier, national hero and we have the utmost respect for him. We are sorry for any offence this may have caused him and sincerely echo today’s apology by The Circle.”
Stynes apologised on The Circle. She said: “My phone has been running hot I have to say, and it’s not in a good way. I’ve had radio stations call me from all different places, to ask about what I said on this show yesterday about the Victoria Cross winner Ben Roberts-Smith. So here’s what happened – Gorgi was talking about a photo she has seen in the paper on Saturday, and I don’t know much about him and I don’t know much about the defense force, so I saw this very handsome guy….”
“Anyway so I made a joke because how could anyone be so perfect. What I didn’t estimate was how much my joke was not appreciated, I sort of intimated that maybe he wasn’t smart because how could you be that buff and spend that much time in the gym and be smart as well. So people have been a bit angry and I’ve been getting a lot of angry messages and I’m really sorry, I didn’t mean to offend anybody and I have total respect for the people who work in the defence force and I’ve never met Ben but I’m sure he’s lovely and he does seem like a big family man – so big apologies about that. It made me feel sick actually, most people know that I’m good hearted.”
Roberts-Smith issued a statement saying: “Initially I was a little surprised at the comments but I also understand they were not meant to be malicious in any way. I would like to thank the Australian public and Australian Defence Force personnel for their overwhelming support – my wife and I were extremely touched by the outpouring of support and concern.
“I have read the statements from both Yumi and George and they have both since contacted me directly to apologise for any offence caused. I have now put this matter behind me so I can focus on serving my country.”
Negus said: ”
“Read properly and in context, it can be seen that what I actually intended to be a ‘tongue-in-cheek quip’ about men generally with great bodies. In no way was it meant to be a comment or a reflection on Corporal Ben Roberts – Smith, directly or otherwise.
“However, if my comment has unintentionally offended Ben, his family, or his ADF / SAS colleagues, obviously I am sorry.”