Today presenter in fiery confrontation with politician over riot comments

Brianne Tolj
·3-min read

Nationals Senator Matt Canavan has clashed with Today Show host Sylvia Jeffreys on live TV as he defended the controversial comments made by Acting Prime Minister Michael McCormack over the US riots.

Nationals leader Mr McCormack, running the country in the absence of Scott Morrison, on Tuesday compared last week’s deadly riots at the Capitol to the Black Lives Matter protests which swept the US last year after police were filmed killing George Floyd.

“I appreciate there are a lot of people out there who are being a bit bleeding heart about this and who are confecting outrage,” Mr McCormack said.

“They should know those lives matter too. All lives matter. People shouldn't have to go to a protest and lose their life.”

Mr Canavan and Ms Jeffreys during the heated Today Show interview. Source: Nine News
A fiery exchange between Today Show host Sylvia Jeffreys and Nationals Senator Matt Canavan was captured on live TV on Wednesday. Source: Nine News

Mr McCormack said he abhorred violence in any form but refused to condemn President Donald Trump for inciting last week's riots.

“All lives matter” is used as a counter-argument to Black Lives Matter (BLM) by far-right figures around the world.

Mr McCormack also ordered Australians who are out of work to “turn off Netflix” and get a job and refused to condemn party members.

On Wednesday, Mr Canavan said he “agrees with Michael McCormack” on all these matters.

“He had a great day because he spoke common sense. You cop criticism in this country these days for speaking common sense,” he told Ms Jeffreys.

The Today host was quick to cut in, asking the senator: “But to undermine the Black Lives Matter movement by saying All lives Matter?”.

Mr Canavan retorted, claiming the racial injustice protests caused “untold damage” and that the “BLM movement is a completely debased organisation”.

“Ninety five per cent of the Black Lives Matter protests were peaceful. You're saying you don't see a difference between what came out of the BLM protests and a siege on the Capitol Building in Washington?” Ms Jeffreys responded.

Five people, including a Capitol police officer who was bashed with a fire extinguisher, died during the siege.

McCormack tells Australians to ‘toughen up’

Despite the extreme violence, Mr Canavan doubled down, saying he believes the BLM protests led to the events of last week “because people have normalised political violence in the US”.

“From early estimates, 95 per cent of those who went to the Trump Rally last week were peaceful as well,” he said.

Trump supports climb the Capitol wall in order to break in. Source: AP
Five people, including a Capitol police officer who was bashed with a fire extinguisher, died during the siege. Source: AP

Ms Jeffreys and Mr Canavan also went head-to-head over Mr McCormack’s refusal to censure government MPs including George Christensen for spreading misinformation about the Capitol siege.

Mr Christensen has also pushed conspiracy theories and unproven treatments throughout the coronavirus pandemic.

Mr McCormack said people who didn't like Mr Christensen's social media posts should "toughen up". In response Mr Canavan said we shouldn’t “silence people”.

“The worst thing you can do to combat conspiracy theories or wrong information is to try and silence them, because when you do that it just feeds those conspiracy theories,” he told Today.

Australian Deputy Prime Minister Michael McCormack speaks during House of Representatives Question Time. Source: AAP
Labor frontbencher Chris Bowen said Mr McCormack should apologise for comparing violence designed to undermine democracy with peaceful anti-racism protest. Source: AAP

Acting prime minister urged to apologise

Labor frontbencher Chris Bowen said Mr McCormack should apologise for comparing violence designed to undermine democracy with peaceful anti-racism protest.

Mr Bowen said the Nationals leader had form in smearing the Black Lives Matter movement.

“This is a guy who last year, claimed incorrectly that Black Lives Matter protests had become a super spreading event,” he said.

“He's speaking at the moment for himself, not for Australia as acting prime minister.”

with AAP

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