VC winner 'surprised' at The Circle's 'dud root' comments
Aja Styles and Jenna ClarkeMarch 1, 2012 - 2:00AM
Pictures of a shirtless Ben Roberts-Smith prompted the comments. Photo: Channel Seven
Victoria Cross recipient Ben Roberts-Smith has dismissed sexist and disrespectful comments aimed at him by the Channel Ten program The Circle as "surprising" but not malicious.
The comments, which included "that he could be a dud root", drew the ire of the nation.
The Circle's co-host Yumi Stynes yesterday admitted she did not know much about Corporal Roberts-Smith when she commented on a photograph of the shirtless war hero in a swimming pool yesterday, saying: "He's going to dive down to the bottom of the pool to see if his brain is there."
Stynes's guest co-host and veteran journalist George Negus also quipped: "I'm sure he's a really good guy, nothing about poor old Ben. But that sort of bloke... what if they're not up to it in the sack?"
Both personally apologised to Corporal Roberts-Smith for their comments before appearing on The Project to explain their actions.
Stynes said that she was "humbled" and "sorry" for her comments.
"I did speak to the winner of the Victoria Cross on the phone and said to him 'look, I'm really about this' and he was like 'I've got a pretty thick skin' and he kind of went 'you know this stuff happens, you say stuff, don't sweat it, let's move on.'
She added that it was "uncool to make fun of him" yet she was "relieved" to speak with Corporal Roberts-Smith.
"It's kind of like when you have a fight with somebody at school and your parents say 'look if you talk it out together as adults it'll be alright.'," she said.
Negus, who also spoke with the decorated soldier, added: "It was very difficult to get him to accept my apology because he didn't sound as though he thought I needed to make one."
He told the panel he understood why people were upset with his comments.
"I've been there, I know conflict zones, I know what guys like Ben and his colleagues do in conflict and war zones.
"I've been in dangerous situations myself, I don't see myself as a hero, I was just doing my job and I'm quite sure that there were occasions when I could've lost my life but I was just doing my job," Negus said.
"Ben and I talked in such a friendly, civil way about it that we agreed to have a beer and talk it through properly."
Corporal Roberts-Smith released a statement late yesterday, saying: "Initially I was a little surprised at the comments but I also understand they were not meant to be malicious in any way.
"I would like to thank the Australian public and Australian Defence Force personnel for their overwhelming support - my wife and I were extremely touched by the outpouring of support and concern."
He said that he had read the statements from both Stynes and Negus and "they have both since contacted me directly to apologise for any offence caused."
"I have now put this matter behind me so I can focus on serving my country," he said.
The TV hosts' flippant treatment of Corporal Roberts-Smith - who single-handedly stormed an enemy machinegun position in Afghanistan in 2010 - angered relatives of decorated war veterans as well as viewers, who flooded the television show's Facebook page with furious comments.
Corporal Roberts-Smith revealed in a candid interview on Channel Seven's Sunday Night program that he and his wife had conceived their twin daughters through IVF treatment.
Stynes, a former Channel [V] host, said she "felt sick" after the backlash and did not estimate that her joke about this "very handsome guy" would go so awry.
"So I made a joke, because how could anybody possibly be so perfect?" Stynes said.
Network Ten also released a statement apologising for the comments.
"We recognise he is a highly decorated soldier, national hero and we have the utmost respect for him," the statement said.
"We are sorry for any offence this may have caused him and sincerely echo [yesterday]'s apology by The Circle."
A public affairs spokeswoman for Victoria Cross recipients said that Corporal Roberts-Smith "would not be issuing any further statement on this matter."
Corporal Roberts-Smith was awarded the VC for extraordinary heroism in bitter fighting as members of the Special Operations Task Group assaulted a Taliban stronghold in Kandahar Province on June 11, 2010.
At great risk to himself, Corporal Roberts-Smith drew fire away from his fellow Diggers by making himself an easy shot before single-handedly silencing two Taliban machinegun posts.
That enabled his unit to go on to clear a village of Taliban.
- with The Age.............OK - this is a decorated war hero who put his LIFE on the line for his fellow Diggers... And he and his wife are cannon fodder for daytime TV because of fertility issues???? R u fucking kidding me with this ???...
...The abhorrence of attacking ANY member of the Armed Forces - of ANY nation - is gut twisting and COMPLETELY UN-AUSTRALIAN.........
..... I'll end with some of the comments from the Australian public .......... good grief.....
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