ABC’s 7.30 presenter Leigh Sales was hosting a charity event for multiple sclerosis on Saturday night, when a prominent, retired businessman and the director of the charity kissed her on the lips in front of a large crowd.
Guardian Australia reported that Phil Newman offered his cheek for Sales to peck and then turned his head at the last minute and planted an unwanted kiss on her lips. She let out a small, shocked scream at the time, and there was an audible gasp from the audience of 200 people.
Sales then took the microphone and said, “Hashtag Me Too”, before continuing to host the black-tie dinner event. The Trish Foundation for MS Research’s Winter Wonderland Ball is an event that Sales has hosted for the past four years.
In the days following the incident, Sales has spoken out over the behaviour of Phil Newman, calling it “intolerable” and that the time for women being subject to such unwanted behaviour is over.
“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,” she told Guardian Australia.
“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.”
Newman told Guardian Australia he was horrified when he realised his behaviour had been offensive to Sales. He claimed it was a joke and said he regretted his actions.
“I apologised on the night profusely and she accepted,” he said. “It was an attempt at humour and light entertainment to start the night off.
“I am upset my judgment wasn’t better. I am embarrassed I brought any disrespect on the foundation and on Leigh.”
Why do men so often think that this kind of behaviour is just a joke? Good on you @leighsales for speaking out. Leigh Sales angered after unwanted kiss in front of crowd at charity dinner https://t.co/JW4iXZt9HP
— Julia Holman (@JulesHolman) September 2, 2019
“It was an attempt at humour & light entertainment to start the night off.” Yep the old “plant-an-unwanted-kiss-on-the-mouth of the MC” in front of 200 people. Classic classy humour. 😫😫😫Bravo @leighsales for calling it out as rubbish. https://t.co/XYPVv1DeAK
— Georgina Dent (@georgiedent) September 2, 2019
This incident comes just five weeks after a man hurled a tub of yoghurt at Sales at Perth’s Disrupted Festival of Ideas.