Sky News interview with Blair Cottrell: Craig Emerson quits, hosts condemn move

By @chelean on
Australian Minister for Trade Craig Emerson
Australian Minister for Trade Craig Emerson listens to a question at a trade ministers news conference at the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation meetings in Big Sky, Montana May 20, 2011. Reuters/Rick Wilking

Craig Emerson has quit Sky News after the channel aired an interview with far-right nationalist Blair Cottrell. The interview, conducted by former chief minister of the Northern Territory Adam Giles, has been deleted from all the network’s platforms after sparking social media outrage.

The interview was aired Sunday evening but has since been scrubbed from Sky News’ website and social media channel. News director Greg Byrnes has also apologised for airing it in the first place, saying it was a wrong move.

“It was wrong to have Blair Cottrell on Sky News Australia. His views do not reflect ours. The interview has been removed from repeat timeslots and online platforms,” the tweet reads.

Emerson, who has a regular guest spots on the news network, said he would be quitting his role as politics commentator following the interview. He said the channel’s interview with Cottrell, whom he called a neo-Nazi, was a way to normalise racism in Australia.

“My father fought Nazis in WWII and was interred in a German POW camp. The decision to allow Neo-Nazi Blair Cotterell [sic] onto the channel was another step in a journey to normalising racism & bigotry in our country,” he tweeted.

He wasn’t the only one from the channel who condemned the move. Leading Sky News presenters Laura Jayes and David Speers have both criticised their network’s decision to give Cottrell, who once suggested that a portrait of Adolf Hitler be hung in Australian classrooms, a platform.

“Blair Cottrell is a far right-wing fascist who’s a self confessed [sic] Hitler fan. He’s boasted about using ‘violence and terror’ to manipulate women. His rap sheet includes arson, burglary, racial vilification,” Jayes wrote. “He’s not an activist. He’s just an a---hole.”

“I have just arrived back in the country tonight to be met with the understandable outrage over this. 100% agree with @ljayes. As News Director Greg Byrnes says it was wrong to have this guy on Sky News,” Speers added.

Federal Labor MP Tim Watts, meanwhile, blasted Australian conservatives for inviting the white nationalist into mainstream political debate. He also reserved a few tweets to condemn Sky News, particularly for calling Cottrell an “activist.”

Greens NSW MP David Shoebridge has lodged a formal complaint against Sky News to Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA), claiming Sky had breached Australian Subscription Television and Radio Association’s broadcasting standards with the interview. He said he would decline to be interviews on the channel until it gave a full apology, not a “half-baked” one, calling other MPs to do the same.

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