Nine vows to report Mark Latham to authorities after offensive tweet
- Mark Latham posted an allegedly racist tweet during the Great Debate on Sunday night.
- Nine has vowed to report him to authorities, without specifying which avenues it would pursue.
- Latham has denied the tweet was racist, while simultaneously claiming it had ‘multiple meanings’ and that it operated on ‘only one level’
- Latham is a former ALP leader who now sits in the NSW parliament as the leader of One Nation in the state
Channel Nine has vowed to report Mark Latham to authorities over an allegedly racist tweet he posted during Sunday night’s televised Leaders Debate.
At 9.56 pm, Latham tweeted “Abo has lost control”, a reference to the debate’s moderator, Sarah Abo, struggling to make herself heard above the crossfire as Prime Minister Scott Morrison and Opposition Leader Anthony Albanese regularly interjected while the other was talking.
Mark Latham in NSW Parliament last month.Credit:Kate Geraghty
At 10.10pm, Latham, the leader of One Nation in the Upper House of NSW state parliament, posted the tweet that sparked a backlash, and led to Nine managements’ condemnation.
“Never trust an Abo with something as important as that,” he wrote.
Despite being widely condemned on Twitter as a racist slur Latham pleaded innocence, telling The Daily Mail on Monday morning that the response was “an example of how the Outrage Industry fails to understand how words can have multiple meanings, and the true meaning lies with the speaker, not necessarily the listener”.
Sarah Abo.Credit:GK Photography
That “multiple meanings” line stood in contrast to Latham’s own position at 8.16am on Monday, when he replied to a poster’s observation that the comment was “clever because it works on two levels” with the response: “Only one level.”
In Nine’s view, there is no question what Latham meant. (Nine is the publisher of this masthead.)
“The tweet from Mark Latham last night is a disgrace, racist and totally unacceptable,” said Darren Wick, Nine’s director of news and current affairs.
“Sarah Abo is an outstanding journalist and handled the robust nature of a debate of this scale with intelligence, calmness and professionalism. That can’t be said for Mr Latham’s tweet. We will be reporting his comments to authorities.”
One possible avenue of complaint could be to the Australian Human Rights Commission. Under Section 18C of the Racial Discrimination Act, it is deemed an offence if an act carried out in public (which would include comments made on a public platform such as Twitter) “is reasonably likely, in all the circumstances, to offend, insult, humiliate or intimidate another person or a group of people”, and if the act is carried out “because of the race, colour or national or ethnic origin of the other person”.
Any attempt to bring action on those grounds would presumably have to establish that Latham had deliberately used a racist term, that the use of that term was likely to offend, and that it had been used because of the racial background of the person offended.
In that case, the vilified party is unlikely to be Abo, who was born in Syria, unless she were to argue that being referred to as an Indigenous Australian was in itself derogatory.
It could perhaps be argued that Indigenous Australians in general had been demeaned by Latham’s suggestion that they could not be entrusted with any kind of serious task. But it would not fall to Nine or Abo to make that case since only a member of the targeted group can lodge a complaint.
Twitter may prove a more fruitful avenue. The platform’s rules of engagement forbid “abusive behaviour, such as targeted harassment or expressing hate towards a person, group, or protected category”.
Twitter also prohibits “the dehumanisation of a group of people based on their … national origin, race, ethnicity”.
According to the platform’s user guidelines, “individuals do not need to be a member of a specific protected category for us to take action”.
Email the author at [email protected], or follow him on Facebook at karlquinnjournalist and on Twitter @karlkwin
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