ABC News boss Justin Stevens has demanded online trolls, whose targeted attacks ultimately led to QandA host Stan Grant’s shock departure from the show, direct their anger towards him instead.
Grant, a proud Wiradjuri journalist, announced he would be “walking away” from the program in an essay published on ABC’s website on Friday, citing racist abuse while at the helm of the program.
“Over many months, but particularly in recent days, Stan Grant has been subject to grotesque racist abuse, including threats to his safety,” Mr Stevens wrote in a statement released on Friday.
“It is abhorrent and unacceptable.”
ABC Director of News demanded trolls send their criticism to him and not departing host Stan Grant. Picture: ABC
He went on to personally address those who have any further “vitriol” to add to the conversation, that they direct their criticism at him instead.
“Any complaints, criticism – or vitriol – regarding the coverage should be directed to me, not to him,” Mr Stevens said.
The ABC boss affirmed Grant’s admission that the “grotesque racist abuse” has been consistent over many months but peaked during the a special Coronation segment which aired on May 6.
Grant said the reaction had been wounding, particularly combined with a lack of support from the executive arm of the national broadcaster.
“I am writing this not because I think it will make a difference. No doubt the haters will twist this, too, and trigger another round of racism,” he said.
“I am writing this because no one at the ABC — whose producers invited me onto their Coronation coverage as a guest — has uttered one word of public support.
The ABC’s panel during King Charles III’s coronation included co-chair of the Australian Republic Movement Craig Foster, Liberal MP Julian Lesser, presenters Jeremy Fernandez and Julia Baird and Q+A host Stan Grant.
“Not one ABC executive has publicly refuted the lies written or spoken about me. I don’t hold any individual responsible; this is an institutional failure.”
Despite his disappointment in the executive arm of the network, Grant made note to call out Mr Stevens for his “support and comfort”.
“I value the friendship of ABC Director of News, Justin Stevens. He has been a support and a comfort,” he wrote.
“He is trying to change an organisation that has its own legacy of racism. But he knows I am disappointed. I am dispirited.”
Mr Stevens said Grant had been subjected to “grotesque racist abuse” which included threats to his safety particularly since the ABC’s Coronation coverage.
“It is abhorrent and unacceptable,” Mr Stevens said.
“He was not the instigator of the program. He was asked to participate as a Wiradjuri man to discuss his own family’s experience and the role of the monarchy in Australian in the context of indigenous history.”
ABC host Stan Grant appearing on the public broadcaster’s coverage of King Charles III’s coronation on Saturday, May 6. Picture: ABC TV.
Grant will moderate Q+A next Monday night before taking leave from the program and other contributions to the national broadcaster.
He went on to elaborate that his decision to step down also included wider criticism of the media but also the racism he has been subjected to.
“I don’t take time out because of racism — I won’t give racists the satisfaction. I don’t take time out because I believe the ABC was wrong to discuss the legacy of colonisation and empire on the day of the coronation,” he wrote.
“We did that, I believe, with maturity and respect.
“I take time out because we have shown again that our history — our hard truth — is too big, too fragile, too precious for the media. The media sees only battle lines, not bridges. It sees only politics.”
Stan Grant says the backlash over the ABC’s Coronation coverage has led to his decision. Supplied
Since the announcement, there has been an outpouring of support for Grant, but an online backlash as well.
Prime Minister Anthony Albanese said the decision of one of the most prominent indigenous Australians to take a back seat was telling, especially ahead of the Voice referendum this year.
“You only have to look at one of my social media feeds to see some of the comments that, quite frankly, are completely out of line,” Mr Albanese said on arriving in Hiroshima where he is attending the G7 leaders summit.
“We can have respect for different views without engaging in vilification, and that‘s important.”
Sarah Ferguson, presenter of ABC TV’s 7.30, said Grant was an admired colleague.
“The abuse directed at him is disgusting. There are no words adequate to the horror we feel at this. Stan is brilliant ant cherished.”
Greens leader Adam Bandt described Grant’s decision as heartbreaking.
“This is heartbreaking, infuriating news. All power to you for saying ‘enough’, Stan, but I am sorry and angry that you’ve had to make this decision,” Mr Bandt tweeted.
ABC presenter Stan Grant is standing down from duties following the backlash over the Coronation coverage. ABC
Mr Stevens said the segment Mr Grant appeared in was just part of the Coronation coverage and fitted within the ABC’s role to facilitate “such important conversations, however confronting and uncomfortable, and to reflect the diversity of perspectives.”
The ABC Ombudsman is investigating the editorial complaints received about the coverage.
He said the responsibility for the coverage lies with ABC News management, not Mr Grant.
“Yet he it is he who has borne the brunt of a tirade of criticism, particularly in the usual section of the media that target the ABC,” he said in a statement.
“Reporting on his contribution to the panel discussion has been unfair, inaccurate and irresponsible. It has contributed to fuelling horrendous personal and racial abuse.”