Not-So-Cocky David Leyonhjelm Eviscerated By ABC’s Virginia Trioli Over Sarah Hanson-Young Slur

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It was a decidedly more upbeat, dare I say it, cocky Liberal Democrats Senator David Leyonhjelm who appeared on Sky News’ Paul Murray Live show last week to defend his comments about Greens Senator Sarah Hanson-Young.

During parliamentary sittings, Leyonhjelm yelled out across the chamber that Hanson-Young should “stop shagging men” during a debate about protecting women in the form of pepper spray and tasers, a debate ultimately sparked by the rape and murder of Eurydice Dixon in Melbourne earlier in June.

Hanson-Young approached Leyonhjelm later to confront him about the comment. He confirmed he made it, then told her to “f**k off”.

But a week is a long time in politics. And that was last week. It was also a ‘friendly’ political interview with a commentator known for, shall we say, some of the more extreme views in the Australian political landscape (Paul Murray Live is shortened to ‘PML’ (Pissed Myself Laughing) for a reason).

Fast forward a few days, and the smile – and cocksure nature – appeared to have evaporated, as Leyonhjelm fronted up for a far less friendly chat overnight with ABC 7:30 host Virginia Trioli.

Indeed, it was a master class in withering, tough, uncompromising political interviewing.

With Hanson-Young confirming yesterday she was seeking legal advice for defamation, an uncharacteristically nervous Leyonhjelm stumbled his way through his interview on 7:30 (and later also on The Project), and seems to have decided that if he was in for a penny, he may as well be in for a pound.

Trioli opened the interrogation by noting Hanson-Young’s legal threat and inviting Leyonhjelm to withdraw his remarks.

“No, bring it on,” he replied.

After suggesting that Hanson-Young had described all men as “evil, the enemy, rapists, sexual predators”, Trioli asked Leyonhjelm to put up or shut-up – specifically, to point to where Hanson-Young ever said anything even remotely similar. Leyonhjelm claimed it happened in the chamber, and was either ‘words to the affect of’, or precisely as he described. Hanson-Young, for the record, denies saying anything like it.

There followed one of the more uncomfortable (or glorious depending on your leanings) political grillings of the year. Enjoy.

TRIOLI: I’ve often wondered if you’ve ever paused to reflect on why you sometimes have such a reflex to get so personal and, frankly, bitchy when women take you on? Have you stopped and wondered about that?

LEYONHJELM: I don’t accept the premise of your question.

TRIOLI: Let me tell you what it’s based on. It’s based on the comments that you made to Senator Sarah Hanson-Young. It’s made on comments that you made to an elderly woman once who criticized you and you told her to quote ‘Go away and stop proving you’re a bimbo’. I’d say those two examples constitute a reflex to get pretty bitchy with women. Why do you think that is?

LEYONHJELM: Well, let me put it this way. When I am abused, accused of something such as being a sexual predator, along with all the other men in Australia….

TRIOLI: I’m going to jump in there – I don’t think anyone accused you of that, but go on…

LEYONHHJELM: Yes, no, well you weren’t there but I was. And when people irrespective of their age, irrespective of their gender, write obnoxious emails to me – and the woman who wrote that did – I feel I’m perfectly entitled to respond.

TRIOLI: I guess Australians will form their own view on that. Time is tight so we’ll have to leave it there. Senator, thank you.

Thank you indeed.

As an interesting aside, Hanson-Young’s response wasn’t too shabby either.

Chris Graham

Chris Graham is the publisher and editor of New Matilda. He is the former founding managing editor of the National Indigenous Times and Tracker magazine. Chris has won a Walkley Award, a Walkley High Commendation and two Human Rights Awards for his reporting. He lives in Brisbane and splits his time between Stradbroke Island, where New Matilda is based, and the mainland.

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