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Calls for apology after Ben Roberts-Smith joke resurfaces: 'I was silenced'

"There were times during that phase where I actually thought I would be better off to die," the host recalled about the fallout from the infamous joke.

The dramatic conclusion of the Ben Roberts-Smith defamation trial on Thursday has re-ignited calls of support for Australian TV personality and author Yumi Stynes, who was subject to a torrent of abuse after making an infamous joke about the soldier more than a decade ago.

The outpouring of online support for the ABC presenter of Ladies, We Need to Talk, comes years after she was vilified by politicians and the public for a 2012 joke she made on TV about his appearance. Remarking on a topless photo of Roberts-Smith in the pool, she fired off a joke about his appearance that missed the mark.

"Hellloooo! Look at that physique! He’s going to dive down to the bottom of the pool and see if his brain is there," she mocked.

Ben Roberts Smith and Yumi Stynes pictured
The TV moment led to a dark time for Yumi Stynes. Source: Channel 7/Getty

Many were quick to take umbrage on behalf of the highly decorated soldier – a status that is now in tatters in the wake of the defamation trial.

On social media, many remembered the backlash Stynes faced. Some argued there was a racial component to the immense blowback, while others called for an apology from those who fanned the flames of criticism, including current deputy leader of the Liberal Party Sussan Ley who publicly excoriated Stynes at the time, saying: "How dare you losers denigrate not just Cpl Roberts-Smith but everyone who wears the uniform of the ADF. You make me sick".

"In light of the Ben Roberts-Smith outcome ... my thoughts are with Yumi Stynes," one person tweeted Thursday. "Many Australians came down on her for daring to question his 'precious' character. When Yumi was spot on right".

"People here threw more hate at Yumi Stynes, a woman of colour for being right, than a war criminal for murdering people," another said.

Joke misstep left media personality 'silenced'

When the Melbourne local, who now lives in Sydney, made the offhanded comment on the Channel 10 program The Circle, it didn't take long before she felt like public enemy number one.

"Within minutes of saying that on Live TV, people started to call up the TV channel and complain. They started to call up radio talkback guys to dob me in. So the shock jocks got in and started to stir up their listeners against me," Ms Stynes recently recalled on the ABC's Just Between Us.

"Months of people ringing the TV channel that I worked for… emailing my bosses, going on the Facebook page to threaten to kill me and hurt me, sexually assault me, violently rape me. It just did not stop. It was so unrelenting."

Yumi Stynes was derided for her comments about the controversial soldier. Source: TEN
Yumi Stynes was derided for her comments about the controversial soldier. Source: TEN

The abuse led to the mum being unemployed, becoming addicted to alcohol and even contemplating taking her own life.

"There were times during that phase where I actually thought I would be better off to die. I had nothing to contribute," she said on the program.

"Months and months of feeling, in your head … why did this happen? Why am I completely unemployed? I was literally silenced."

Yahoo News Australia reached out to Ms Stynes' management for comment.

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