Erin Molan received a surprising exclamation mark when she defended herself in a defamation lawsuit against allegations of racist and derisive behavior.
When Erin Molan defended herself in court on Tuesday against accusations of racism and making fun of Pacific Islander names, she was surprised with a hiatus.
The nine sports broadcaster, which is suing the Daily Mail for defamation, was asked by attorney Bruce McClintock if she had laughed at the “mockery or comic mispronunciation” of a Polynesian name on a previous episode of 2GB rugby league show Continuous Call Team.
“Not at all,” said Mrs. Molan. Almost immediately, an anonymous spectator in the virtual courtroom said, “Ha!”
There was an awkward silence of about five full seconds before Mr McClintock said, “I hope this wasn’t someone who should have muted their sound”.
The interjection came hours into a tense cross-examination in which Ms. Molan repeatedly dismissed claims that she was peddling “ugly racial stereotypes” and mocking people for their accents during her five years on the Continuous Call Team.
Several clips from the show’s archive were played in court as the rugby league personality was confronted with her words from the past. She denied that the different accents she took on the show were a “classic example of casual racism”.
Among the recordings played was an excerpt from an April 2017 show in which Ms Molan says “I love you very long, very handsome man” in a Chinese accent.
She rejected Mr McClintock’s suggestion that she was imitating a “Chinese prostitute”, saying she quoted a film – later credited as the 1987 Stanley Kubrick film Full Metal Jacket in which a Vietnamese sex worker says a similar sentence – and the joke was that her accent “was so bad”.
“What you were doing was a really ugly racial stereotype about peddling Chinese women for a laugh, wasn’t it?” said Mr McClintock.
“Not at all,” Mrs. Molan replied.
“It was basically a pretty horribly racist thing you did that day?” Mr McClintock continued.
“No,” Mrs Molan replied.
Ms Molan alleges that the Daily Mail falsely portrayed her as a racist and “arrogant white woman of privilege” who made fun of Polynesian names on the air and refused to apologize.
The media outlet hit back with a lengthy defense of truth based on hours of audio from the Continuous Call Team archive, reverting to 22 episodes where the hosts spoke to each other in different accents.
In court on Tuesday, Ms Molan said that several times people from different backgrounds had called to the show, finding the accents “hilarious” and offering to coach Darryl Brohman for his terrible efforts.
“If a Chinese person approaches me and says that they have been hurt or offended by something I have ever said or done, I will be the first to apologize to them and anyone else,” she said.
She listened intently, stared at the screen and did not respond as the clips played aloud in the virtual court.
When she said, “Do you like raw fish?” with a Japanese accent she was referring to sushi, she said.
Accused of “mocking” sushi by Mr McClintock, Ms Molan said: “It’s one of my favorites, I eat it for lunch most days. To mock is to do something in a cruel way. That reference was not on any level cruel.”
In another shot, where Brohman used a Chinese accent while pretending to negotiate the price of a bowl, the only flaw in the joke was Mr Brohman himself, Ms Molan said.
“No one in 2020 or 2021 can impose an Asian accent on a person trying to cheat a customer without it being a racially offensive slur,” Mr McClintock said incredulously.
“Well sir, I’ll have you look at the data,” Mrs Molan replied. “Most of these clips are for that.”
“If times have changed and suddenly accents aren’t considered an understandable or acceptable part of humor, I’m happy to have that discussion.”
Under questioning by her own lawyer, Ms Molan said she was “almost unable to function” after the Daily Mail published a first story on June 4 and the one she is suing the following day.
“I was concerned about my ability to mother my daughter at that stage, because I was sick and I … I struggled to cope,” she said hesitantly.
“I’m different. I won’t recover until this is over.
“And even then, I’m not sure I’ll ever really recover.”
On the first day of the trial, the court was told: an editor at the Daily Mail emailed a reporter that read: “Let’s dive into this sheila” before the mid-case article was published.
More to come