The most telling line of Eddie McGuire’s face to face interview with US figure skater Johnny Weir came in the closing minutes, last night.
“I appreciate your support,” said Eddie.
It was the exact same sentiment Paul ‘Fatty’ Vautin used when he invited Gay Rugby Union team onto the NRL Footy Show on air after a sketch with Matthew Johns was going to see them taken before the Anti Discrimination board.
Make no mistake, Nine’s studio interview with Johnny Weir was not Nine supporting Weir, it was the reverse. And it was essential damage control after the controversy that has surrounded McGuire since his chat with Mick Molloy last week.
It had already been addressed on Friday night by McGuire, but there’s nothing like getting the man at the centre of the story to come along and smile for the cameras. If it boosted the audience figures as a curiosity piece, so much the better.
Strictly speaking, McGuire’s original comments were never homophobic, but they were decidedly clumsy. While the network, Footy Shows and AFL have a reputation for being blokey, McGuire has a history of supporting Collingwood’s gay cheer squad, the Pink Magpies, and he even interviewed kd lang after the Opening Ceremony. Working in entertainment, McGuire knows he has plenty of gay colleagues.
But lines with the words “closet” and “Brokeback” in the context they were used were unfunny and unhelpful. McGuire raised the issue with Weir last night.
“Some people have taken it as an insult, and I respect their opinions,” said McGuire.
“I’ve heard about that,” replied Weir.
“At no stage were we trying to be insulting. We were taking the Mickey, which is an Australian way, but I understand how people can be insulted by that. So we were not here to be pushing any particular barrow. You join in a lot of the fun of the fair on this sort of stuff. When does it cross over for you? When does it become malicious?”
“When I’m threatened,” said an articulate Weir. “I don’t have a problem with people questioning me as a person, my lifestyle, my life. I don’t have a problem. Everyone is inquisitive. Everybody has a comment to make or a question to ask, it’s human nature, it’s people. I’m strong enough to deal with anything, unless I get threatened.”
Nine is now poised to make Weir a star in Australia, and could adopt him as its very own Carson Kressley, finding room for him on various lifestyle or variety shows if it happened to fit with his training schedule.
And finally, last night’s interview with Weir was also edited.
If producers had bothered to edit the first chat with Mick Molloy none of the subsequent controversy would have emerged in the first place.