Channel Nine’s Today show has dropped One Nation leader Pauline Hanson as a “regular contributor”, after she described residents of public housing in Melbourne who are locked down due to Covid-19 as “drug addicts” who “cannot speak English”.
In a statement, the channel described her comments as “ill-informed and divisive”, and said “she will no longer be appearing on our program as a regular contributor”.
Hanson was given a regular Monday morning slot on the Today show last year, after she left competitor Sunrise. This came after she was criticised on air by Channel 7 host David Koch for her comments on the Christchurch massacre.
Despite condemning her comments, Today had earlier tweeted out a video of Hanson’s appearance, 30 minutes after she appeared, with a caption summarising her comments.
A second post social media said: “Pauline Hanson has made a number of controversial comments on Melbourne’s public housing quarantine this morning. What do you think?”
Channel Nine’s statement did not say whether Hanson would return in an irregular capacity. Last year, Channel 7 said she was still welcome to a regular weekly slot on the show, before the senator left the show herself.
In 2019, Hanson and Nine were criticised for an all-white panel that described the Uluru climbing ban as like closing down Bondi beach.
Flemington housing estate residents were in touch with the Guardian as the Channel Nine broadcast went to air, expressing their alarm, hurt and disgust.
The community has generally welcomed the presence of media on the estate but they were horrified with what Channel Nine put to air.
There are concerns among community leaders that if views such as Hanson’s are amplified, along with the angrier voices from within their own community, that the safety of vulnerable locked-down public housing tenants will be put at risk.
One African Australian community member said: “People are really upset and stressed. All it takes is one tired police officer and one upset young person. The media need to be careful. We all want to get out of this safely.”
Ahmed Faid, who lives in one of the Flemington towers now placed in “hard lockdown”, laughed when asked about Hanson’s comments.
“You can’t say much about Pauline Hanson,” said Faid.
“Regarding the points she mentioned … she should know that the people who are living here are hard working, doing 15 to 16 hours of work everyday so that they can survive and support the future of their kids.
“They know they have less chances so they need to do more work so they can catch up.”
On Monday, Labor MP Andrew Giles said Hanson had “vilified” the residents of public housing with her comments.
“These are a group of people who deserve our support, to get through an awful situation not of their making,” he said. “Senator Hanson’s remarks do not bear repeating, but her conduct must be condemned by all sides of politics. Now is a time for political leadership which unequivocally rejects racism and the forces seeking to divide Australians.”
The Greens senator Mehreen Faruqi said that Hanson was “given a platform because she will be racist”.
“Networks count on racism-fuelled controversy for profit. The harm of this media decision-making can’t be understated.”
Darren Wick, Nine’s director of news and current affairs, said in a statement: “The Today show has advised Pauline Hanson that she will no longer be appearing on our program as a regular contributor.
“We don’t shy away from diverse opinions and robust debate on the Today show,” he said. “But this morning’s accusations from Pauline Hanson were ill-informed and divisive. At a time of uncertainty in this national and global health crisis, Australians have to be united and supportive of one another. We need to get through this together.”