Disgraced TV and radio host Chris Smith is facing fierce public and private repercussions for his lewd Sky News Christmas party conduct over the weekend.
And it’s not the first time.
Details of the former Sky News and 2GB host’s alleged behaviour at the event were released on Tuesday night, with witnesses revealing to The Daily Telegraph that he allegedly groped a woman and made sexually-charged comments to other guests, prompting several complaints.
The fallout has been swift, with Smith’s termination from both employers confirmed yesterday after immediate suspension from the airwaves. In statements, both workplaces cited “severe breach of contract” in their reasoning.
Behind the scenes, his wife, nutritionist Susie Burrell, who is 15 years his junior, and their twin sons, reportedly packed up and left the family home on Monday.
Smith’s ongoing issues with alcohol and past allegations of inappropriate behaviour at public events has been well-documented over the years.
In a case of history repeating, 13 years ago, Smith’s wife and two kids similarly walked out after a 2GB staff Christmas party, with the couple divorcing soon after.
The 2009 incident, reported by The Daily Telegraph at the time, involved four female co-workers. Smith, who claimed he couldn’t remember the events of the night, was told be had been “inappropriate” with the women, and even tried to kiss one.
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2022 Christmas party details
Late on Tuesday The Daily Telegraph spoke to sources at the party who described what they saw.
The event was held at The Ivy Sunroom on George Street in the Sydney CBD at lunch time, from noon to 5pm, with guests kicking on later at The Establishment.
One source said Smith walked in “like a dinosaur with a huge ego”.
“He was actually thinking these women would be interested in him,” they told the Telegraph.
“It is revolting.”
Smith then allegedly grabbed one female colleague on the bum as the party was winding up before she turned around and punched him twice on the shoulder and told him to “f**k off”, according to a Sky News employee who wished to remain anonymous.
Another female was allegedly subjected to off colour comments about recent holiday photos posted to social media.
One woman witnessed the incident and said Smith used the word “sexy” multiple times, as well as “side boob”.
Sky News and 2GB contracts terminated
2GB was first to confirm Smith’s sacking, releasing a statement which stipulated that his actions “did not align” with the values of the station.
“2GB has today terminated the services of broadcaster Chris Smith,” it said.
“The termination follows the Sky News Christmas party at the weekend, where Chris has conceded his behaviour was unacceptable, “apologising profusely” for his “drunken treatment” of women.”
The statement continued with a comment from Nine’s managing director of radio, Tom Malone.
“Chris’ behaviour represents a serious breach of his contract, and is not aligned with the values of 2GB.”
2GB said Nine has provided support to Chris in recent days.
Sky News Australia followed up with a statement of their own.
“Following an investigation into allegations of serious misconduct, we have today advised Chris Smith that his contract with Sky News Australia has been terminated as a result of inappropriate behaviour that is in breach of his contract and company policy,” Sky News Australia CEO Paul Whittaker said.
“We continue to offer support to affected staff members whose welfare remains out primary concern.
“I am committed to ensuring a safe and healthy environment where everyone is treated fairly, and with dignity and respect at all times.”
Colleagues lash out
Co-workers from both workplaces have publicly denounced Smith’s behaviour at the event this week.
On Monday night, Sky News presenters Andrew Bolt and Rita Panahi addressed the scandal during their broadcast.
“Now we are all good people here at Sky, we have a culture of looking after each other and if you betray that trust, besmirch our good name, offend women here, you’re out,” Bolt said on his program on Monday.
“Chris, all the very best to you with getting over what you say is your addiction and your bipolar condition, but your recovery must take place somewhere else, not here,” he said.
“Good luck but goodbye”.
Panahi agreed: “What he did on Saturday night, how he made a number of women feel means that in my opinion he can never be on this network again.
“The women at this station know we have their back, we stand with them and will never tolerate this kind of behaviour.”
Journalist Laura Jayes took to Instagram to agree with Bolt and Panahi’s stance on the matter, writing, “Good riddance” with a link to their comments.
It is believed Jayes made a complaint about Smith’s behaviour on the night in question to Sky News management in support of the women involved.
On Tuesday, 2GB’s mornings host Ray Hadley also called for Smith to be taken off air, describing him as a “disgraceful person” while speaking to Mark Levy.
“I’m embarrassed to be a former colleague of his and I hope I never have to work with him again, in fact I know I won’t ever work with him again, so good riddance to bad rubbish,” Hadley said.
“I have no sympathy for him, I’ve heard it all before — ‘I’m bipolar, I drink too much, I’m a monster when I drink’ — we’ve heard that four or five times over the years.”
Back in 2009, the then-45-year-old said he was so drunk on champagne and red wine at the 2GB Christmas party and loaded on “the wrong antidepressants” that he became a “runaway train”.
“I was in a crazy extended drinking mode,” he told The Daily Telegraph.
“That has happened to me a few times over the last decade – I just black out and that’s what happened. I’m not saying by any means that that’s an excuse. It’s not.”
The talkback host said his wife at the time, Ali Smith, was left humiliated, and had walked out with their two kids Morgan and Ashley.
No official complaints were made about his behaviour, but he was suspended by Macquarie Radio Network, which owned 2GB at the time.
Smith assured the publication he was determined to get help for his alcoholism and save his marriage.
“They’re probably going though it even worse (than me) because they’re just humiliated and embarrassed by their husband and their dad,” Smith said, struggling to hold back tears.
“My family’s estranged from me at the moment. I totally understand that. It’s the right course – my wife has taken the right course and I intend working on that.
“I’ve had some terrible problems handling alcohol,” he said.
This year, Smith, now 60 with two more children, similarly addressed the incident in an interview with The Daily Telegraph on Monday, in which he revealed he was again seeking treatment for his bipolar disorder and alcohol issues.
“I am beyond gutted and devastated to know I have upset my colleagues after our Christmas party,” the father-of-four told the publication.
“I apologise profusely to the women I upset. That’s not the man I am at work, ever, as they will all attest. They have been so supportive to me and do not deserve such drunken treatment.”
Smith and Burrell were engaged in 2014. They welcomed twin sons Aengus and Henry in 2015.
Bipolar disorder and alcohol
According to Health Direct, “Bipolar disorder is a chronic (long-term) condition that involves intense mood changes which disrupt everyday life — from extreme highs to extreme lows.
“It affects 1 in 50 Australians each year, and often develops for the first time during teenage years or early adulthood. Bipolar disorder tends to affect more women than men. It is sometimes referred to as manic depression.”
The Hader Rehabilitation Clinic in Queensland reports that is it common for patients with Bipolar disorder to develop issues with alcohol or drugs, with over 50 per cent of bipolar individuals presenting with addictions.
Additionally, Better Health Victoria says about 20 per cent of Australians with a substance use disorder also experience affective disorders such as depression or bipolar disorder.
Story Credit: news.com.au