It can be exasperating to watch TV journalists struggle (or not bother) to shut down slippery and sexist/racist politicians, but when it’s done right, it’s oh so right. That’s what makes veteran Australian journalist Virginia Trioli’s handling of libertarian senator David Leyonhjelm so deeply satisfying to watch—a master class in dealing with a moron.
Senator Leyonhjelm appeared on 7.30, Australia’s major nightly news, to double-down on his suggestion that fellow senator Sarah Hanson-Young “stop shagging men,” in what he sees as a “very legitimate” response to “misandry.” Leyonhjelm reportedly made the comment last Thursday during a senate debate on violence against women, specifically the restrictions on pepper spray and tasers. The debate over who is responsible for such violence has been raging across Australia since the rape and murder of 22-year-old comedian Eurydice Dixon on her walk home from a gig, with women responding angrily to suggestions that they need to take more precaution than they already do.
It’s not clear exactly what Hanson-Young, a member of the minority Greens Party, said that prompted Leyonhjelm’s comments, and Leyonhjelm…can’t remember exactly. But he’s certainly got his knickers in a knot over the suggestion that it might be men who are responsible for violence against women. According to the interview here, the comment appears to have been something along the lines of “if only men would stop raping women” which he interprets as “all men are rapists, or something to that effect” (Hanson-Young denies saying this, and it wasn’t recorded amidst the shouting match into which parliament regular descends).
Leyonjhelm has been repeating what he obviously sees as a very clever spin on #NotAllMen across the media, certain in his mind that his sexist slur is actually a defense of men’s honor, as Hanson-Young threatens defamation action:
Trioli generously offered Leyonhjelm the chance to withdraw his comments on air, as backlash mounts against him.
My friends, he did not.
What’s especially satisfying about this interview is that Leyonhjelm has no idea he is having his ass handed to him. While women are harangued for forgetting even the tiniest detail in their sexual assault testimony, Leyonhjelm is resting his defense—which, let’s be clear, doesn’t justify what he said—on words he can’t recall:
After eviscerating his #NotAllMe bullshit, Trioli asked the single greatest question a political journalist has ever asked a politician:
I’ve often wondered if you have 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 ever stopped and wondered about that?
Not all heroes wear capes—some wear fabulous silver t-shirts.
You can watch the bitchin’ five-minute interview in its entirety here.