ABC journalist Leigh Sales said she was left feeling “offended and angered” after receiving an unwanted kiss from a man while hosting a charity event over the weekend.
The 7:30 presenter was hosting a black tie charity dinner for the Trish Multiple Sclerosis Research Foundation at Sydney’s Hilton Hotel when retired businessman Phil Newman, who is also a director of the multiple sclerosis charity, introduced her to the 200-strong crowd by offering her his cheek to peck, The Guardian Australia reports.
Newman instead turned his head to kiss her on the lips. Sales reportedly “screamed” in response and told the crowd “hashtag me too” before resuming her hosting duties.
In a statement provided to Mamamia, Sales said while she could not have more respect for the Trish MS Research Foundation and what they do, she felt it would be “gutless” not to call out Newman’s behaviour.
“The Trish Foundation for MS Research is an amazing charity and my association goes back years,” she said.
“I could not have more respect for what they do. I was offended and angered by the incident on Saturday night.
“I had strong words to the man involved, he apologised and I accepted that apology. That should be the end of it as far as I’m concerned.”
“The only reason I am commenting publicly is that given how many people witnessed the incident, I feel it would be gutless not to stand up and say that kind of behaviour is intolerable and the time for women being subject to it or having to tolerate it is long gone,” the author and Walkley Award-winning journalist said.
Leigh Sales spoke to Mia Freedman about the day her world turned upside down on the No Filter podcast below. Post continues after audio.
The Guardian Australia also reports Newman later approached Sales’ table at the event to offer her another kiss on the cheek, and is now “horrified” that his “attempt at humour and light entertainment” offended her.
Newman told The Guardian, “I am upset my judgment wasn’t better. I am embarrassed I brought any disrespect on the foundation and on Leigh”.
Mamamia has reached out to the Trish Multiple Sclerosis Research Foundation for comment.
Sales has previously spoken about encountering sexism throughout her decades-long career in media.
In 2018, Sales told an audience at The Remarkable Woman’s International Women’s Day breakfast, “I was working at Channel Nine when I was in my early 20s and I was pulled aside by a boss who told me I didn’t have the looks or voice to be on TV,” Now to Love reports.
In a 2013 interview with B&T Magazine, she also recalled a time when a “sleazy cameraman” once gave her a “bit of a feel” while clipping her microphone on.