THE backlash to a tasteless stunt at Steve Smith’s emotional press conference has escalated as Cricket Australia today confirmed it will not be advertising with the Australian Radio Network (ARN).
As the former Australian captain fought back tears and apologised to the nation and his parents for his role in the ball tampering scandal in South Africa on Thursday night, one of the first comments came from “Intern Pete” — whose real name is Peter Deppeler — from KIIS FM’s Kyle and Jackie O Show.
Saying he wanted to take a “change of tack” Pete said: “I want to let you know from the perspective (of the) non-sports community of Australians, to see you upset tonight is very sad.
“Mate I’ve got to tell you … hold your head high for what you have done because what’s actually been worse is what Davina and Dean did on Married At First Sight.”
As a bewildered Smith watched tearfully on, the comment was quickly cut off by media handlers and fans reacted swiftly.
And hang your heads in shame the @kyleandjackieo show. That was a truly disgraceful stunt.
— Michael Rowland (@mjrowland68) March 29, 2018
And another high water mark for the Kyle & Jackie O show…. Fella is breaking down in front of the country & you throw a tool in……..
— Kurt Fearnley (@kurtfearnley) March 29, 2018
That person, who I will not call a journalist, should be banned from ever going to a press conference again. I think it was from the @kyleandjackieo show – whoever you are, you are an idiot.
— Rebecca Maddern (@RebeccaMaddern9) March 29, 2018
A spokewoman for ARN, the parent company of KIIS FM, said the “question was framed for those those who don’t follow cricket”.
“The ball tampering incident has evoked an extraordinary reaction from a broad range of Australian audiences, both those who follow cricket, and those who don’t know anything about the sport,” she said.
“As you can hear when you listen to the audio of the question, Pete genuinely felt for Steve, as he tried to inject some warmth to what was a difficult situation.”
But Cricket Australia didn’t see the warm side to the interjection, confirming it does not intend to advertise with ARN following the stunt.
Speaking to news.com.au after the press conference, Deppeler said upon reflection it wasn’t the best time to ask such a lighthearted question
“As everyone watching at home saw, the solemnness of the moment was extraordinary,” Deppeler told news.com.au.
“To many, it held a lot more intensity than one would expect for a sporting incident. Steve was so upset which surprised everyone in the room and I just wanted to let him know that it truly wasn’t the end of the world.
“It wasn’t my intention to make light of his personal situation, but to show him that the millions of Australians who aren’t obsessed with cricket empathise with him. But timing is everything and, on reflection, it wasn’t the best time to ask that.”
Deppeler said “this wasn’t a set up stunt” and he wasn’t instructed to ask the question by anyone at KIIS FM or any members of The Kyle and Jackie O Show.
“Heading to the airport I didn’t actually realise it was going to be a press conference,” he said.
“Along with many of the other media outlets, we were initially told he’d [Steve Smith] be walking through the airport and, along with all the other waiting journalists and reporters, I thought I may be able to call out a question to him as he walked through.
“Coming from all the Australians who don’t follow cricket and find it fascinating and even concerning that so much pressure has been placed on these players like Steve, I really did just want to inject a moment of light and warmth to what was such a serious situation. All week everyone had been acting like he was a criminal and I wanted to show him that many Australians don’t think the world has ended because of this tampering incident.”