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Radio Host Apologises After He Asks A Guest If She “Was Yellow” And "What The Deal Was" With Asians

"Chrissakes. When a leading ABC radio personality asks an Asian colleague 'are you yellow?' we have a problem."

Originally posted on
Updated on

Australian radio host Red Symons is facing criticism after he asked a guest - ABC Radio presenter Beverly Wang - "What's the deal with Asians?" and if she was "yellow", while also appearing to defend a controversial blackface skit from Australian television.

Former pop star Symons, 68, hosts ABC Radio Melbourne's breakfast show and was interviewing Wang on June 7 about her new podcast, It's Not A Race, when he claimed that he had had a very similar podcast idea – but that his was called "What's the deal with Asians?"

"What is the deal with Asians?" Symons went on to ask Wang in the audio, which aired on June 12. "Are they all the same?"

Wang countered Symons by asking him to elaborate: "Let's tackle that, what's the deal with Asians, Red?"

"No, I ask the questions," he replied.

"First question is, are they all the same?" asked Symons, before joining Wang in a chorus of "noooo of course not."

Wang, a Canadian of Taiwanese descent, was then asked if she was "yellow", if "they" spoke Mandarin or Cantonese, and if she was born in China.

ABC

"Who's 'they'?" asked Wang.

"The people in Taiwan!" responded Symons.

"They speak Taiwanese and they speak Mandarin," said Wang. "In Canada, where I'm from, they speak English and French."

"I know that, but you're probably from the west coast of Canada... because it's closer to Asia," said Symons.

Symons also got Wang's name wrong, calling her "Jenny".

Symons also appeared to defend a controversial 2009 segment on Australian variety show Hey Hey It's Saturday, which featured people in blackface dancing. Here's what that shitshow looked like:

"Do you remember the Chinese parable? It’s a weird story but it speaks to… we all think we’re the centre of the Earth," said Symons to Wang, discussing his defence of the blackface sketch at the time it was aired.

"I know the parable," said Wang. "Oh OK. Go ahead."

"When God made people he got the dough, put it in the oven and some came out a bit burnt (they’re black people), some came out a bit underdone (they’re the white people), and some a kind of a beautiful golden yellow and they’re the Asian people," said Symons.

"Yeah… I’ve heard that story growing up and I always thought it was weird," responded Wong.

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The ABC has deleted links to the segment, however many were still able to listen to it on Thursday night and early on Friday morning. You can also listen to a short podcast Wang uploaded featuring audio from the interview.

"In the spirit of leaning into the conversation about race, I wanted to give you the full uncut audio of my conversation with Red," said Wang.

Social media was full of criticism towards Symons.

Remember when Red Symons was the guy on red faces who always gave people a shit score, and his whole schtick was that he is an arsehole?

The fact that Red Symons still thinks he can say this stuff speaks volumes. Pass the mic to someone else.

Not that I necessarily expected Red Symons to be racist, but he is as a rule disrespectful to his guests and seemingly willfully unprepared

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Chrissakes. When a leading ABC radio personality asks an Asian colleague "are you yellow?" we have a problem https://t.co/cS2ms3mxLb

"What's the deal with Asians?" "Are you yellow?" Just 2 of the questions that Red Symons asks @beverleywang LISTEN: https://t.co/ceBqoejctz

I say this as a friend of Red Symons: this is audio he never imagined would see the light of day. ugly, but in its way private. i'm uneasy.

still cannot get over the hideous behaviour of Red Symons in this interview with deadset pro and most patient perso… https://t.co/Y9KNyJKTDS

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Wang has not commented extensively on the interview with Symons, save for a few tweets.

In a statement to The Guardian, an ABC Radio spokesperson said both the morning radio segment, and the latest episode of the It's Not A Race podcast, had been removed.

“A review of the editorial processes around this content and its use is in progress. ABC Radio apologises for the content going to air," said the spokesperson.

UPDATE: Symons apologised to Wang and his listeners at the beginning of his show on Monday morning.

The former Hey Hey It's Saturday panelist said he had conducted the interview poorly and "came across as racist."

"I offer my sincere apologies. We need to talk about these issues, but be careful how we consider them," he said.

Brad Esposito is a news reporter for BuzzFeed and is based in Sydney, Australia.

Contact Brad Esposito at bradley.esposito@buzzfeed.com.

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