Radio star Erin Molan breaks down as she explains why she said ‘hooka looka mook hooka fooka’ on air
An emotional Erin Molan has denied saying ‘hooka looka mooka hooka fooka’ during a rugby league radio program was meant to mock Pacific Islander footballers.
The radio and television broadcaster was giving evidence in the Federal Court on Monday in her defamation action against Daily Mail Australia.
Molan alleges the publisher accused her of being racist when she put on a voice to say the made-up ‘hooka looka’ name on 2GB’s Continuous Call Team show last year.
The 38-year-old told the court her comment came after program host Mark Levy referred to father and son commentators Ray and Chris Warren calling an upcoming rugby league game.
Molan interjected by twice saying ‘Dad!’ in a voice she told the court was meant to sound like Chris Warren, then said ‘hooka looka mooka hooka fooka’.
Erin Molan is suing Daily Mail Australia over an article and two tweets on June 4 to 5, 2020 which accused her of mocking Pacific Islander names by uttering ‘hooka looka mooka hooka fooka’ on radio. Stock image
Erin Molan allegedly mocked the names of Pacific Islander NRL players live on 2GB radio as part of The Continuous Call Team. She is pictured with the show’s current host Mark Levy
She thought her fellow panellists would immediately understand her remarks were a reference to a story told previously by Darryl Brohman, including on April 5.
That day Brohman had been discussing a debate between Ray and Chris Warren over how to pronounce the name of Haumole Olakau’atu, a Manly forward of Tongan decent.
‘His name had about 30 letters in it and I had trouble pronouncing it so I asked Chris “How do you pronounce this bloke’s name?”‘ Brohman said.
‘He said, “Well dad and I have been discussing this today… and dad thought his name was Chuka-lala-lulu.
‘And I said, ‘Well, dad, I think it’s Chuka-lala-lulu-lulu, and he says, “Chris, that’s incorrect – it’s Chukaka-lulalulalo”.’
Molan told the court after Levy referred to Ray and Chris Warren calling a game on May 30 she had exclaimed, ‘Dad, Dad’, before saying ‘hooka looka mooka hooka fooka’.
Molan alleges Daily Mail Australia additionally defamed her by claiming she refused to apologise for deliberately mocking Pacific Islander names with her ‘hooka looka’ comment
She had not been able to recall the name Brohman had used in the Warren story, ‘So I just used a name that I’d made up on the spot there.’
Molan said the words she used did not resemble the name of any player in the NRL and she had expected her fellow panellists to understand she was referring to the Warren story.
‘To me it had been a very obvious reference but clearly not so much to my colleagues,’ she said.
Molan denied the voice she adopted was meant to sound Polynesian. ‘That was Chris and Ray Warren’s voice,’ Molan told the court.
The comment had not been intended to mock Pacific Islanders and Molan had not thought either Brohman’s story about the Warrens or what she said was offensive.
‘It was poking fun at a father and a son trying to get a name right,’ she said.
Molan, who began her testimony clutching tissues, became teary when asked how important it was for a public figure not to be seen as racist.
‘I think if people believed that I was racist then it would be almost impossible for my employers to have me on in different roles because it’s unacceptable,’ she said.
Barrister Kieran Smark SC said his client’s comments had been taken ‘completely out of context’ and distorted to make it seem she was mocking Islander names.
Mr Smark said Brohman had also told the Warren story on October 5, 2019 and April 12 last year, it was well known to Continuous Call Team listeners and Molan’s response to it was not part of an ‘inside joke’.
Molan is suing Daily Mail Australia, alleging the publication defamed her in an article and two tweets published on June 4 and 5 last year by accusing her among other things of being a racist.
She told the court that after reading a story about reactions to her ‘hooka looka’ comment she had been distressed.
‘I felt sick, I felt angry, I was very upset.’ she said. ‘It was saying that I had deliberately mocked the pronunciation of Polynesian names.’
Molan also alleges she was portrayed as being so callous that having deliberately mocked the names of Pacific Islanders on air, she then refused to apologise.
Molan is part of the Nine Network’s rugby league coverage and co-hosts the 2Day FM Morning Crew with Dave Hughes and Ed Kavalee. She is pictured working for Nine
Molan says she was the subject of a social media frenzy after the publication of a Daily Mail Australia article about her ‘hooka looka mooka hooka fooka ‘ comments
Molan, who joined the Continuous Call Team about 2015, told the court using accents had been a ‘large part of the show for many, many years’.
At times she had adopted American, French, Chinese, Indian, Spanish, Scottish, Irish and Welsh accents while on air.
‘Every accent you can think of I’m sure we all would have done,’ she said. Molan had never received a complaint about using such accents.
Mr Smark told the Federal Court the Continuous Call Team was a live, light-hearted, irreverent, unscripted show.
It was was intended to be entertainment ‘in some sense about sport’ but which featured a panel of presenters who sometimes discussed completely unrelated matters.
Mr Smark played a short segment to Justice Robert Bromwich selected ‘pretty much at random’ which included panellists talking about scented candles, putting hail in the freezer and Molan leaving her mobile phone on the roof of her car.
Molan alleges Daily Mail Australia portrayed her as ‘a racist’ and an ‘arrogant woman of white privilege’ who refused to apologise for deliberately mocking Pacific Islander names. Molan is pictured with her father, Senator Jim MolanOn
‘They were in a sense silly shows,’ Mr Smark said. ‘So far as any target for the humour it was the participants themselves or their media colleagues.’
Mr Smark said Molan had ‘said some gibberish syllables’ while referring to a ‘funny story’ that had previously been told on air.
‘What has happened was taken completely out of context and distorted by the Daily Mail and what that in turn did was set running a social media frenzy,’ Mr Smark said.
Molan had subsequently been the subject of what she called a ‘barrage of abuse’ on social media platforms. One user called her a ‘racist entitled mutt’.
‘She was very upset by what was said about her,’ Mr Smark said.
Molan had apologised on 2GB in case anyone had been offended by her ‘innocuous, funny, or not funny, attempt at funny’ remark which she described as ‘clumsy and inappropriate’.
Barrister Kieran Smark SC said Molan had been attacked by strangers on social media platforms including one user who called her a ‘racist entitled mutt’
On June 10 last year Molan posted a tweet denying she mocked any Polynesian player’s name, and that she never refused to apologise. Daily Mail Australia argues both statements are incorrect
‘The last thing she was attempting to do was an attempt to mock,’ Mr Smark said. ‘That was not what she was about at all.’
The court heard Daily Mail Australia editor Barclay Crawford received an email from a staff member on June 5 with the subject line ‘Pacific uni lecturer says Erin Molan racist’.
The email included a social media post from an academic criticising Molan’s ‘hooka looka’ broadcast which he forwarded to a journalist, writing: ‘Let’s rip into this sheila’.
Molan alleges Daily Mail Australia portrayed her as ‘a racist’ and an ‘arrogant woman of white privilege’ who refused to apologise for deliberately mocking Islander names.
The publication in its defence argued these imputations were substantially true, and that her conduct on air was ‘objectively racist’.
NRL players with a Polynesian heritage represent a significant proportion of athletes in the league, the defence states.
Daily Mail Australia in its defence argues the Continuous Call Team program ‘frequently engaged in discussions containing racist content’.
Both Nine Entertainment, owner of 2GB, and Molan herself said her ‘hooka looka’ comment was referencing a story fellow broadcaster Darryl Brohman told on air on April 5 last year
‘On occasions this included the mocking of ethnic, particularly Pacific Islander and Maori names,’ its defence statement reads.
Molan alleges Daily Mail Australia additionally defamed her by claiming she refused to apologise for deliberately mocking Pacific Islander names with her ‘hooka looka’ comment.
She claims the articles also portrayed her as ‘so disrespectful and incompetent that she is unfit to be an NRL commentator’.
Molan said in a tweet the ‘hooka looka’ comment related to ‘a story Darryl [Brohman] tells about chris warren and his dad from a dragons game last year’.
She alleges the article and tweets left her ‘gravely injured in her character and in her personal and professional reputation’.
‘[She] has suffered hurt and embarrassment and has suffered and will continue to suffer loss and damage.’
Daily Mail Australia rejected this in its defence and ‘denies [Molan] is entitled to the relief claimed or at all’.
Molan is part of the Nine Network’s rugby league coverage and co-hosts the 2Day FM Morning Crew with Dave Hughes and Ed Kavalee.
Both Nine Entertainment, owner of 2GB, and Molan herself said her ‘hooka looka’ comment was referencing a story fellow broadcaster Darryl Brohman told on air on April 5 last year. Molan is pictured with fellow Nine commentators Wally Lewis (centre) and Darren Lockyer