The ABC’s Monday night panel talk show, Q&A, began this evening with host Tony Jones saying “we find ourselves in an unusual situation tonight” acknowledging that one of this biggest talking points of the week was the show itself.
The show is currently facing two investigations, one by the ABC, and another by communication minister Malcolm Turnbull’s department, over the appearance of convicted criminal Zaky Mallah on the program.
Jones defended Mallah’s appearance on the grounds that the ABC editorial charter demands that it offer a wide range of views.
Jones said that the Q&A team were unaware of a “very offensive”and misogynistic tweet by Mallah earlier this year, in which he said he wanted two female journalists “gang banged”, but had they known about it, he would have not been welcome on the show.
Earlier today, government parliamentary secretary Alan Tudge pulled out of the show, along with Nick Cater the executive director of the conservative think tank, the Menzies Research Centre.
Their replacement, The Australian’s editor-at-large, Paul Kelly, said he found it “extraordinary” that the ABC said it would have stopped Mallah from being on the show for the tweet, but allowed him on given his criminal record.
Kelly said Mallah was a tabloid “gotcha” moment by the ABC designed to embarrass the government.
Human rights commissioner Tim Wilson said “You should be ashamed of yourselves for giving him a platform”.
Wilson accused ABC managing director Mark Scott “mocked” the memory of the those who died in the Charlie Hedbo murders last year when he cited the incident during a speech in defence of the broadcast last week.
Discussion of the issue took up more than a half of the show and continued to return to Mallah throughout the night.
American theoretical physicist and cosmologist Lawrence Krauss picked up on Wilson’s comments arguing that the subsequent debate over and reaction to Mallah’s appearance seems to have given him a far bigger platform than the show did.
“I wouldn’t have known who he was otherwise,” Krauss said.