Nine broadcaster Erin Molan has told a court case that she was not engaging in casual racism when she repeatedly laughed at the mispronunciation of Polynesian, Chinese, Indian and Japanese names on the 2GB rugby league radio show.
The 39-year-old is sue the Daily Mail for defamation about an article and two tweets she says portray her as racist after saying “hooka looka mooka hooka fooka” on the Continuous Call program in May 2020.
On the first day of the trial, the federal court learned that the editor of the Daily Mail Australia, Barclay Crawford, had sent an email to a journalist saying “Let’s tear into this sheila” before the website published the article about Molan.
On day two, Molan was questioned about historical references to ethnic names, and at one point she was asked to put on a Chinese accent to recreate a comment she made during the broadcast.
Molan told Daily Mail’s attorney Bruce McClintock SC that May’s broadcast and all the other clips played in court had nothing to do with mocking someone’s name and ethnicity.
The Nine rugby league commentator said “it was a running joke on the show to try to do accents from all over the world” and the humor lay in the hosts laughing at their own “bad” accents.
McClintock told her that when she said, “I want you very tall, very handsome man,” she mocked a Chinese prostitute.
“You were engaged in a despicable act of casual racism when you imitated that Chinese accent,” McClintock said.
Molan: “I don’t accept that I engaged in casual racism. No, I definitely did a Chinese accent, that’s been part of the humor in the show for 30 years and I quoted a movie, a line from a movie, a very famous line.”
McClintock asked if it was racist when she said, “You like raw fairies?” in a conversation about Japanese women giving birth and having sex, to which Molan replied “no.”
“What were you referring to?” McClintock asked.
Molan: “A very popular Japanese cuisine… I was referring to sushi.”
After playing back tapes of shows where Molan and others laughed at imitations of Indian and Balinese accents, McClintock asked, “Spotting is a pretty fair description of what you’re doing, isn’t it?” and suggested that the nature of the chatter was not benign and would upset any Indian or Chinese people who would hear it.
“The whole show is very benign,” Molan said. “We laugh at ourselves and we laugh. No one has ever raised an issue about any element of racism or anything else I’ve been aware of on the show for five years. We’ve had people of different races come in and try to coach us to put different accents.”
Molan told the court she wasn’t kidding about Polynesian names when she said “hooka looka mooka hooka fooka.”
“You can’t honestly suggest that these weren’t mockingly Polynesian names, Mrs. Molan, obviously they were,” McClintock asked.
Molan: “I don’t agree at all, sir. It’s a joke of a father and son trying to get a name right. I disagree that Polynesian names have ever been the butt of a joke we once made about the Continuous Call.”
Earlier, an emotional Molan wept when she told the court she was depressed and inconsolable after the article was published.
“I was afraid that people would have read the articles and stories and would think I was a racist,” she said. “And I was afraid that people would call me names on the street. I was afraid that the multiple threats I received from physical assault, including from someone who is a convicted criminal and many others, that they would try to find me and hurt me and my daughter.”
Molan will be ready to testify on Wednesday morning.
The Daily Mails defense filed in federal court claims that from 2017 to 2020, the Continuous Call team “was often engaged in discussions of racist content”.
“Sometimes this included mocking ethnic, especially Pacific Islander and Māori names. On other occasions, it contained crude accents (often Chinese and Indian) and references to stereotypes associated with particular races or cultures.”
Molan’s lawyer said the Daily Mail took something “that might have been foolish, might have been frivolous… [her] reputation”.