Matt Hancock once again puts his foot in his mouth defending Tony Abbott’s rampant homophobia. It’s a car crash
As it’s a day ending in, well, day, Britain’s health secretary Matt Hancock defended the government’s appointment of Tony Abbott to a post as unpaid trade advisor, once again ignoring criticism of the former prime minister’s views on LGBT+ rights and women.
In what feels like political déjà vu – Hancock made similarly clumsy remarks defending the ousted Australian leader last week – the Conservative Party cabinet minister bumbled as he spoke to Sky News‘ Kay Burley Wednesday morning (9 September).
This time, Hancock brought up Abbott’s lesbian sister – whose wedding he tried to prevent by opposing marriage equality – who came out to defend him. Christine Forster called accusations that Abbott is “misogynistic” and “homophobic” as “nothing short of dishonesty”.
Health Sec, @MattHancock: "Tony Abbott's sister, who is herself homosexual, said those accusations are wrong."
— Kay Burley (@KayBurley) September 9, 2020
However, Hancock referred to Forster as “a homosexual”, a vastly outdated term abhorred by activists for its clinical history, long weaponised by anti-LGBT+ groups to treat being gay as a pathological, even “treatable” disease.
He also conveniently forgot the blistering words of Julia Gillard during a televised 2012 speech in which the Labor leader called Abbott, then leader of the opposition, a “sexist and a misogynist” to his face.
It was voted the “most unforgettable” moment in Australian television history, but was, apparently, forgettable to Hancock. “I’m not that close to Australian politics,” he said.
Matt Hancock laughs as he yet again defends Matt Abbott’s history of homophobia and misogyny.
Burley began by reminding a smirking Hancock that she quizzed him on Abbott’s track record last week: “I said he’s a homophobe and a misogynist, you said he’s also an ‘expert on trade’.
“Did you want to add anything else to that today?”
Hancock, between laughs, then responded: “You can disagree with people on things.
“I’m nothing if not a supporter of everybody’s right to live their life how they want to. Mr Abbott’s sister, who is herself homosexual, has come out and said those associations are wrong and we should listen to her carefully.”
“Yeah, sure, what about the former Australian prime minister [Julia Gillard] who said he was a misogynist, should we listen to her?”
“I’m not that close to Australian politics,” Hancock replied. “What I’d say is listening to somebody’s sister is always a wise thing to do.”
Burley then sharply rebuked Hancock by asking how he could say Abbott is skilled in trade if he does not know Australian politics.
Hancock’s interview quickly winnowed fury from Twitter users, many praising Burley for skewering the lawmaker while others were stunned by his offhand use of “homosexual”.
How is he so unprepared for the same question a week later hahaha it’s hard to dodge the truth https://t.co/0GmGc6eFpg
— Calum Mcferran (@calumbyyourname) September 9, 2020
'I know the ins and outs of Tony Abbott's family relationships, but I don't know anything about Australian politics' https://t.co/U20RIPVIS8
— Toby Earle (@TobyonTV) September 9, 2020
when a straight man says of a woman, “who is herself a homosexual” you know they aren’t a real ally to the LGBTQ community. https://t.co/zQ7WoFy3jx
— J Λ M Ξ S (@jamesglynn) September 9, 2020
‘Homosexual’: A term loaded with unflinching homophobia, top LGBT+ groups say.
The “things” that Matt Hancock mentioned that people may “disagree” on are Abbott’s winding history of discriminatory statements.
The pugnacious and socially conservative Catholic campaigned against marriage equality in 2010, said being gay “challenges […] the right order of things” and said he feels “a bit threatened, as so many people do”, by gay people.
Abbott has suggested that men are better adapted to “exercise authority” than women, said underrepresentation of women in society isn’t necessarily a “bad thing” and once called abortion “the easy way out” when he was Minister of Health in 2004.
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He also vehemently opposed carbon trading to combat climate catastrophe as well as embryonic stem cell research.
Moreover, Hancock’s use of “homosexuality” is a word that, to many, has a ring of disapproval. Many LGBT+ rights groups have stonewalled using the term – GLAAD has it on its list of offensive terms – for its loaded history in treating gay people as deviant.
During much of the 20th century, the word “homosexual” was defined by the American Psychiatric Association’s classification of same-sex attractions as a mental disorder. The association discredited itself and reversed that definition in 1973.
Overall, usage of the term has plummeted – a Google Books scan shows a sharp decline after peaking in 1995 – seemingly sequestering it to anti-LGBT groups and figureheads.