Mark Latham: Sky Australia host fired for offensive comments

Mark Latham (file pic) Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Latham led Labor to defeat in the 2004 federal election

Former Australian Labor Party leader Mark Latham has been fired from his political chat show by Sky News Australia after a series of controversial remarks.

His recent comments about women in the media and schoolchildren proved too much for the broadcaster.

He had questioned a 15-year-old boy's sexuality and attacked fellow presenters on air.

Latham has long been accused of making misogynistic and sexist comments.

Sky News Australia's CEO Angelos Frangopoulos said he had informed Latham his contract as presenter of Outsiders was being terminated immediately.

"While we support strong opinions and robust arguments, we pride ourselves in doing so in a civil and respectful manner," he tweeted.

To his supporters, Latham is a plain-speaking opponent of political correctness. His detractors regard him as an unacceptable mouthpiece for outdated, misogynistic and homophobic attitudes.

'I thought he was gay'

Latham's comments about the schoolboy came after the 15-year-old read out a comment made by a woman during a video he made with his schoolmates, designed to raise awareness of gender issues.

"I thought he was gay. Well, yes, who wouldn't think that?" Latham said after viewing the video.

"Only later in the video did it become clear the students were reciting the words of women as part of some strange social media presentation."

His comments were condemned by senior politicians including Education Minister Simon Birmingham and current Labor leader Bill Shorten, who said Latham was a "sad bully".

Other controversial statements include:

  • describing another Sky News host, US-born Kristina Keneally, as - among other things - a "Yankee sheila", prompting her to lodge a formal complaint with their employer
  • describing ABC presenter Wendy Harmer, who was born with a cleft lip and double cleft palate, as a "female with a disability" and a "proven commercial failure", which led her to send a legal letter to Sky demanding an apology
  • ridiculing the Reserve Bank of Australia's strategies to promote women as appointing people solely on the basis of the "shape of their genitalia"

'Good sorts'

Latham left his job as a columnist on the Australian Financial Review in 2015 after reportedly criticising domestic violence campaigner Rosie Batty and several women journalists on Twitter.

And in the 2013 federal election, during a furore over Liberal leader Tony Abbott's description of one of his party's female candidates as having "sex appeal", Latham gave his view in a radio interview:

"It showed very bad judgment. It showed that he's got low standards. I've had a good look at Fiona Scott... and I don't think she's got sex appeal at all... He must have had the beer goggles on because she's not that good of a sort, and I'd rather have an aspirant for the prime ministership who's a good judge when it comes to checking out the good sorts, as many Australian men do."

Latham became leader of the Labor Party in 2003 but lost the following year's election and resigned as leader in 2005, leaving parliament at the same time.

He then published a controversial memoir, The Latham Diaries, in which he condemned the state of political life in Australia.

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