Tim Ferguson, best known as part of the comedy group Doug Anthony Allstars (DAAS) along with Richard Fidler and Paul McDermott, carried out what has been described as an “obscene bullying campaign” against a journalist.
On Tuesday, reporter Candance Sutton wrote an account of the abuse she suffered at the hands of Ferguson, which she describes as “psychologically debilitating”.
In 1990, Sutton recalls she received a letter from Ferguson in response to a review she published about a comedy show he was involved in.
It would be the first of many.
The letters featured denigrating, highly sexualised caricatures, where Sutton was represented with breasts and genitals, and enormous teeth. He would sign off his letters with lines such as, “Love and breast cancer,” “Love and leukaemia” and referred to Sutton as a “f*cking idiot”.
Is workplace bullying the next frontier in the #MeToo movement? We discuss on Mamamia Out Loud. Post continues below.
The comedian also described her with abbreviated derogatory terms, such as: “slts”, “y fckng twat”, “cnt”, “whre”, “mthrfckr” and “bagful of trds”.
More letters were sent, and they became increasingly obscene. One, which Sutton has produced a copy of, read “… ‘Candace’ we squeal, our buttocks flummoxing in uncontrolled agitation, small gaseous secrets flowing from our little brown parentheses…
“We have penned a slight tune in your name… We have sung the song to our friends and they have laughed uproariously about it.”
The letter was signed, “Cunnilingus and the Crimea, DAAS.”
Next, Ferguson drew a picture of the Sun Herald reporter with large, unusually shaped breasts, straddling a man who was lying on the floor.
The cartoon man, depicted with an exaggerated erect penis, was pointing between the woman’s legs, and was accompanied with the caption, “Ooh ‘Candace’ lets scruff.”
Sutton contacted Fairfax News, who advised her to contact ABC management directly and file a complaint. After the third letter, that’s what she did.
But it made no difference. The young journalist then followed the issue up with ABC management, who told her they would “have a word” with the comedians.
It didn’t work.
More letters came, and Ferguson’s celebrity status continued to rise.
Eventually, they did stop.
But now, 28 years later, Ferguson is holding an exhibition in a gallery with all his paintings, artworks that are entirely reminiscent of the vile caricatures he once sent to Sutton.
When Sutton told the members of DAAS, Fidler now one of Australia’s most accomplished interviewers and host of ABC Radio’s Conversations with Richard Fidler, and McDermott a prominent comedian, that she would be publishing the letters, she received an apology.
The apology reads: “Tim Ferguson, Paul McDermott and their former colleague Richard Fidler, express an unreserved apology to journalist Candace Sutton for behaviour towards her when they were performing together as the Doug Anthony Allstars that was both offensive and unprofessional.”
McDermott and Fidler concede they were made aware of the letters and drawings after they were sent, and “expressed their dismay and disgust to him at the time.” They did not, however, work to retract these messages, and apologise for not doing more.
The ABC have also issued an apology.