Historic abuse sent to journalist over 1990s review draws apology

Tim Ferguson, Paul McDermott and Richard Fidler, better known as anarchic comedy troupe, Doug Anthony All Stars, have collectively apologised for abusive letters sent to a TV critic in the 1990s.

Ferguson has apologised for five letters he reportedly faxed to Sun-Herald journalist Candace Sutton, whilst McDermott and Fidler (now a former member) expressed regret that they did not urge a retraction when they learned of his actions.

Ferguson sent them over several months in 1990, at the height of the trio’s success on ABC’s The Big Gig. and after a print review. They were faxed from ABC offices.

“My editor flick-passed me to the Fairfax lawyer, an old (and now dead) corporate solicitor unimpressed by my complaint,” she writes.

“He told me to ring ABC management, which I did.

“The ABC boss expressed some sympathy and said he’d have a word with the three comedians.

“But they were big stars, and the letters kept coming.”

Sutton today writes in News Corp her intent in publishing the letters is to explain that abusive letters do have an effect on women.

“I am not comparing myself with victims of actual physical sexual abuse — like the women assaulted by Harvey Weinstein who began the #metoo campaign, or sexual assault victims in the community,” she notes.

“But messages of hate are psychologically debilitating.”

After telling the trio she would be writing about the letters in the spirit of #metoo, they issued an apology:

“Tim Ferguson, Paul McDermott and their former colleague Richard Fidler, express an unreserved apology to journalist Candace Sutton for behaviour towards her when they were performing together as the Doug Anthony Allstars that was both offensive and unprofessional.

“Tim, who was responsible for the letter and drawing sent in 1990, says he deeply regrets sending them in response to a television review written by Candace, and acknowledges the hurt and offence caused by his actions. He apologises unreservedly.

“Paul and Richard were only made aware of the letter and drawings after Tim had sent them, and they expressed their dismay and disgust to him at the time. It was an appalling and stupid thing to do.

“However both Richard and Paul acknowledge that, having been made aware of their existence, they both should have urged Tim to retract these infantile messages and apologise for their content. They’re sincerely sorry for their failure to do so at the time.”

Doug Anthony All Stars recently undertook a reunion tour with Ferguson, McDermott and Paul “Flacco” Livingstone.”


  1. The letters are certainly puerile and offensive but wasn’t that the whole point of that group’s act? They drop kicked babies (dolls) across the stage and took aim at many sacred cows for laughs. Their live shows weren’t for the touchy feely types. Congratulations, Candace! You get a seat on the bandwagon alongside people who actually suffered horrific, “real” abuse because you missed the point of a comedy act.

      • Agree with David. Yes, I know it was DAAS’S onstage shtick to be as provocative and offensive as possible. But it’s definitely not cool to personally target an individual in such a way, purely for writing a slightly critical review.

      • Pip has a point, though. The serious episodes of abuse are being obscured and diminsihed by the metoo campaign which encourages every woman to scour her memory for tiny offences and then label herself as a victim.

        It doesn’t seem to be the case here, though, as it is the “offender” who is outing themselves. Maybe that is the next step – men will start admitting to every little peccadillo in case someone is offended in the future.

  2. Wow, the content of those letters is pretty damning.
    Really juvenile and puerile – something a 14 year old schoolboy might scrawl out and snigger about behind his teacher’s back.
    Sorry to see Tim has behaved like this as I have always admired him. I remember seeing a feature on him on Australian Story last year and thought at the time what a nice and intelligent person he seemed, especially his positive attitude towards his long term battle with MS.

      • For sure. Sounds like his onstage persona took over for a while there.
        But still no excuse for continuing to bombard this one particular woman with really nasty, offensive emails. Surely one was enough to make his point?
        Yes, I’m sure Tim’s changed a lot since then and is no doubt a lovely bloke now but unfortunately this will be bound to follow him around for quite a while.

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