French TV presenter Cyril Hanouna is well-known for un-PC slippages on popular chat show “Touche Pas a Mon Poste” (Don’t Touch My TV Set), which routinely brings in more than a million viewers.
But this time he might have taken things too far, after a widely decried homophobic prank on his show’s latest installment prompted a campaign to oust him from his job.
The unsavory stunt involved Hanouna catfishing gay men by creating a fake online profile where he pretended be a “very sporty and well endowed” bisexual man called José who “likes being insulted”.
Hanouna and his team then phoned the men and tricked them into recounting their sexual fantasies live on air.
Little did they know that they were being by a studio audience and a TV viewership of nearly 2 million people.
Over 20,000 complaints were filed with the CSA (the French independent broadcasting authority) over the sequence, which aired Thursday evening, and several advertisers — including Chanel and Disneyland — have pulled their ads from the comedy chat show.
Multiple rights groups and celebrities also denounced the hoax as homophobic, and LGBT rights defense group SOS Homophobie filed an official complaint on Friday, reports Gay Star News.
Its sitting president, Joël Deumier said the stunt was “scandalous, shameful and homophobic”.
“When you let people get away with behavior like this, you trivialize homophobic discourse. The sketch was deeply homophobic,” he said on Twitter.
One phone operator for French support line Le Refuge, which works with young victims of homophobia, apparently spent the night talking to one of the men Hanouna had tricked, “who was in an appalling state of moral distress”, the BBC reports.
“We were devastated by his tears and his fear of being found out by his parents and those around him,”a member of the association, Nicolas Noguier, was quoted saying on Facebook.
To add insult to injury, the torso Hanouna used for his dating profile was (obviously) not his but that of model Max Emerson, who never gave permission to use it for the skit.
He joined the chorus of angry voices, who called for Hanouna’s resignation, and even suggested suing him and have proceeds donated to a US-based LGBT organization GLAAD.
— max emerson (@TheMaxisms) May 20, 2017
Mr Hanouna said Friday that he felt “hurt” by these accusations of homophobia as it was “everything he had been fighting against for years and the opposite of TPMP (Touch Pas A Mon Poste.)
This is far from the first time the show sparks outrage.
Hanouna’s first major blunder happened during 2015’s Eurovision contest when, after watching a clip of one of competing entries — a group of singers with autism and down’s syndrome — one of his guests responded, “We’re going to screw the Down’s Syndrome people.”
In October this year, Hanouna also made headlines for all the wrong reasons after he encouraged one of his guests to force his way into a woman’s breasts, kissing them live on air despite her repeated objections.
He was subsequently accused of misogyny and bully-ish behavior.