Sky News Australia apologises for interviewing 'Hitler fan'

Blair Cottrell has in the past called for copies of Mein Kampf to be distributed to schoolchildren

Tom Barnes@thomas_barnes
Monday 06 August 2018 10:47
Far-right activist Blair Cottrell's appearance on Sky News prompted a backlash from viewers
Far-right activist Blair Cottrell's appearance on Sky News prompted a backlash from viewers

Sky News Australia has admitted it was “wrong” to broadcast an interview with a far-right activist who has previously expressed sympathies for Adolf Hitler.

The network later pulled the segment, featuring former United Patriots Front leader Blair Cottrell aired during the Adam Giles Show on Sunday evening, conceding it had been an “error of judgement”.

His appearance on the programme to discuss immigration prompted widespread backlash among viewers, politicians and journalists, who objected to the platform he was given.

“It was wrong to have Blair Cottrell on Sky News Australia,” the channel’s news director Greg Byrens said in a statement posted on Twitter.

“His views do not reflect ours. The interview has been removed from repeat timeslots and online platforms.”

Many voicing objections pointed to Cottrell’s criminal history, including his convictions for stalking and arson.

He was also found guilty last year of inciting contempt for Muslims after he and other nationalists staging a protest against the building of a mosque performed a mock beheading.

Cottrell has in the past praised Hitler, calling for schools to display pictures of the leader of Nazi Germany and for children to be issued with copies of his book Mein Kampf. He has denied supporting nazism.

New South Wales Green MP David Shoebridge said he would refuse to appear on Sky programming until the company issued a full apology for allowing Cottrell on its network.

He also filed an official complaint with the broadcasting regulator the Australian Communications and Media Authority, saying questions needed to be raised over the “culture of an organisation that meant that an active white supremacist was booked, interviewed, filmed... without concerns being raised about the offensive and dangerous content.”

Former Australian government minister Craig Emerson resigned from his role as a Sky commentator over the incident.

“My father fought Nazis in WWII and was interred in a German POW camp,” he wrote on Twitter.

“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.”

Meanwhile, Sky News political reporter Laura Jayes described Cottrell as an “arsehole”, condemning the decision to allow him to appear on the programme.

“Blair Cottrell is a far right-wing fascist who’s a self confessed Hitler fan,” she said.

“He’s boasted about using ‘violence and terror’ to manipulate women. His rap sheet includes arson, burglary, racial vilification.”

Sky has since issued a second statement announcing that Cottrell will never be invited to appear on its network again.

The activist has hit out at the decision to axe repeats of his slot on Twitter, claiming the broadcaster had caved in to “leftist abuse”.

“I suppose my ideas are so irrefutable, that the only recourse is to silence me.” He wrote. “How pathetic.”

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