‘Please leave’: Stan Grant ejects pro-Putin audience member from Q&A set
Q&A host Stan Grant took the extraordinary step of expelling a member of the audience from the studio on Thursday night after the young man, named Sasha, expressed support for the Russian invasion of Ukraine.
The decision was greeted by cheers from the studio audience and met largely with approval on Twitter, though some dissenting voices saw it as an alarming attempt to restrict the conversation of one of the most serious global conflicts of our times.
The young man, identified only as Sasha, said he was “someone who comes from the Russian community here in Australia” as he began his question for the panel.
He said he had been “pretty outraged by the narrative created by our media depicting Ukraine as ‘the good guy’ and Russia as ‘the bad guy’. Believe it or not, there are a lot of Russians here and around the world that support what Putin is doing in Ukraine, myself included.”
Sasha then went on to claim that Ukrainians had been responsible for the deaths of 13,000 ethnic Russians living in the country since 2014. “Where was your outpouring, or even concern, for those thousands of mostly Russians,” he asked.
Sasha, the young man who expressed support for the Russian invasion of Ukraine on Q&A. Credit:ABC
While agreeing that the UN had estimated 13,000 people had died in Ukraine since 2014 as a result of the conflict, Grant pointed out that there was no evidence to support the suggestion that all, or even most, of those people were Russian.
“The United Nations has listed 13,000 total killed since the conflict, but you’re trying to suggest that is Russians killed by Ukrainians,” said Grant. “The United Nations has pointed out that there’s 13,000 killed since the conflict began.”
Grant then opened the discussion up to the panel, asking whether there was some merit to the suggestion that there might be two sides even to this story. And even if there is, he added, how is it possible to consider the Russian viewpoint – as expressed by Putin and Sasha – “without diminishing what’s happening on the ground?”
The conversation then moved on to the Lismore floods, but around 10 minutes later, Grant returned his attention to Sasha.
“Something has been bothering me, I have to admit, since we had Sasha,” he said.
“People here have been talking about family who are suffering, and people dying, and I understand you wanted to ask your question about ‘is there some reasoning for this?’
“But you supported what’s happening, hearing that people are dying. And can I just say I’m not comfortable with you being here. Could you please leave.”
The audience broke out in applause at that point, and as Sasha protested, Grant stood firm.
“You can ask a question, but you cannot advocate for violence,” he said. “I should have asked you to leave then, it’s been playing on my mind, but I do have to ask you to leave.”
On Twitter, there was much support for Grant’s position. But a handful of dissenters were concerned at his apparent unwillingness to debate the issue.
Publisher Louise Adler was among them. “A solitary voice proposing a counter-narrative on the Russian-Ukraine disaster is shut down, cancelled and asked to leave,” she wrote. “Stan Grant, really? Is there only one view permitted now on our ABC?“
However, others were ringing in their endorsement. Ronni Salt’s tweet telling Stan Grant “that is one of the greatest things you have ever done on television” had racked up almost 1200 likes soon after the program had finished.
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