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‘Most offensive interview ever’

AN ABC news presenter has come under fire following an interview labelled as "offensive" where he told a woman with a chronic skin condition that she looked like a "burns victim" and said she might scare children on Halloween.

Jon Faine, who presents ABC Melbourne's morning radio program, also asked if his guest's skin condition prevented her from having sex.

The pressure on Carly Findlay, a writer and the Inclusion Co-ordinator of the Melbourne Fringe Festival, to luridly detail her disability riled listeners - one of whom phoned into the show and live on the air berated Faine.

ABC Melbourne radio presenter Jon Faine.
ABC Melbourne radio presenter Jon Faine.

On the show, Faine defended his questions and said "it wouldn't make any sense" to not describe Ms Findlay's disability to listeners who couldn't see it for themselves. However, since the furore erupted an ABC spokesman has said that Faine "meant no offence" and "accepts that a number of his questions and comments were insensitive".

On her website following the encounter, Ms Findlay said the title of the show could have been changed to "the time (Faine) suggested my face would be good at Halloween".

"Today was really hard, and I expected to be treated better," she wrote.

Ms Findlay appeared on the show on Wednesday morning with Faine on a segment called "Known Unknowns" dealing with topics not well understood by the public. He asked her to explain her condition, because when discussing disability, "what comes to mind are people in wheelchairs and that's not you".

She replied that she had a rare and severe non-contagious condition called ichthyosis which caused her skin to dry and scale.

"It makes me really red and itchy and a bit shiny as I have to use paraffin for moisturiser and I sometimes walk a bit stiff because I'm sore … but it's the attitude of society that is more disabling."

Faine then stepped in: "You look as if you're a burns victim almost, and your whole face is covered with this red flush."

Carly Findlay, left, has the rare skin condition ichthyosis, which effects 10-20 people per million.
Carly Findlay, left, has the rare skin condition ichthyosis, which effects 10-20 people per million.

'IT CAN'T BE GOOD ON HALLOWEEN'

Ms Findlay said it could be difficult seeing people's reactions to her condition.

"Even before I open my mouth people have an assumption of why I look the way I do," she said in the interview.

Faine asked if children pointed at her on the street.

"That can be really hard, I don't want to scare kids," she said.

"It can't be good on Halloween?" Faine interrupted.

"No," said Ms Findlay, lost for words.

She went on to say that many people seemed to forget their social norms and say the first thing they came into their heads when they saw someone who looked significantly different to themselves.

"What's the worst (question) you've had?" asked Faine.

"Can you have sex?" Ms Findlay replied before moving the conversation on.

"Hang on," said Faine laughing. "What's the answer?"

"Yes," said Ms Findlay, who is married.

 

 

 

 

 

She went on to talk about a speech she gave where the discussion point was how intrusive other people can be about disability.

"After (the speech) this woman comes up and started scratching my arm as though I needed to be relieved of itchy," she said.

"And yes, I am itchy but I said no thanks, I don't want a scratch from as stranger."

Ms Findlay also recalled an incident where she was followed off a tram by a woman who tapped her on the back and said she'd pray for her. To which Faine said, while it might be a bit odd, he didn't see the problem if it made the stranger feel better; it was just their way of giving good wishes.

Ms Findlay wasn't convinced: "The perception my life is bad and I need a prayer is a bit offensive. People with disabilities are not other people's feel-good moments."

Carly Findlay is a writer and disability activist.
Carly Findlay is a writer and disability activist.

'MOST OFFENSIVE INTERVIEW EVER'

While Ms Findlay remained polite, Faine's comments didn't go down well elsewhere.

ABC presenter Julia Zemiro said his comments were "at times inappropriate" while another on social media labelled it a "train wreck".

Author Jessica Walton, who herself has a disability, said on social media that the interview was "offensive" and Faine was going too far getting Ms Findlay to describe her skin condition in so much detail.

"So disrespectful and horrible. So incredibly unprofessional. This is one of the most offensive interviews I've ever heard."

Similar sentiments were expressed by a listener who went live to air.

"Jon, you asked Carly for significant detail about her condition and physical appearance. I've never heard you do that with any other guests on the program. That was a good example of what we're trying to fight."

Faine replied that he had asked permission before the show to discuss her disability because, "to me it wouldn't make any sense to have this conversation with Carly and not explain why."

Ms Findlay said she had agreed to talk about the disability because radio listeners wouldn't immediately understand what her condition was.

Nevertheless, she said, "I do hope one day I can talk about lots of things without having to describe my appearance."

On her blog later, Ms Findlay said: "I feel I did a good job, even when Jon Faine suggested my face would be good at Halloween, even when he asked me whether I can have sex, even with him justifying unwanted prayers, and even with his reducing of me to a medical condition."

An ABC spokesman told news.com.au: "On the segment broadcast yesterday, Jon spoke to Carly about how people with disabilities regularly deal with microaggressions from others. Jon intended no offence to Carly, but accepts that a number of his questions and comments were insensitive and sincerely apologises for any distress that she has felt as a result of the interview."

She had a tip for people who meet her. "It's not my obligation to explain other people's curiosity. Just say hello and speak to me like someone who doesn't have this condition. And if they must ask say 'I hope you don't mind me asking'".

It's not the first time ABC Melbourne has hit the headlines for an awkward interview.

Former ABC host Red Symons gave a car crash interview in 2017.
Former ABC host Red Symons gave a car crash interview in 2017.

In a podcast in 2017, former presenter Red Symons conducted a bizarre interview where he fired off a succession of offensive questions to journalist and producer Beverley Wang's race.

Some choice snippets included Symons asking Ms Wang, "are you yellow?" and "what kind of boat" her ancestors had used to flee mainland China for a new life in Taiwan some 400 years ago.

He also wondered when she'd been given the name "Beverley" to which Ms Wang said "when I was born".

The interview was panned at the time, including, again, by Zemiro who labelled it as "racist rubbish".

The ABC later deleted the podcast episode.



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