Small yellow stickers on shelving in the sauce aisle of Coles are visual proof that celebrity chef and conspiracy peddler Pete Evans became one of Australia’s most untouchable brands in just 48 hours.
With already many strings to his bow when it comes to reasons for brands not to partner with him, one click on Instagram has seen Evans’s fortunes fold and lucrative brand deals quashed.
On Monday, Evans shared a cartoon of a caterpillar wearing a “Make America Great Again” hat from Donald Trump’s US presidential campaign, speaking to a butterfly with wings emblazoned with the Black Sun wheel, a prominent white nationalist symbol that experts say cannot be misinterpreted.
Now, Channel 10 has reportedly dropped Evans from the cast of ‘I’m a Celebrity... Get Me Out of Here!’ while Big W, Dymocks, Woolworths, House, and Coles have distanced themselves from Evans-related products.
One Twitter user posted an empty shelf from Coles where Pete Evans Simmer Sauce is usually stocked.
Bright yellow stickers read: “Talk to your department manager for further instructions BEFORE refilling.”
Coles confirmed to HuffPost Australia it was in the process of removing Evans’ products.
“We have no direct business relationship with Pete Evans, however we currently stock a small number of products from suppliers who have licensing agreements with him,” the retailer said.
“We have spoken to these suppliers who share our concerns regarding recent statements made by Mr Evans and are in discussions regarding the removal of these products from our range.”
Evans did not immediately respond to HuffPost Australia’s request for comment.
The Black Sun is a white nationalist symbol that was used by extremist movements and neo-Nazis who marched in the deadly “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, in 2017 and then by Australian white supremacist Brenton Tarrant when he killed 51 worshippers at two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand, last year. When a follower pointed out the Black Sun on social media, Evans replied: “I was waiting for someone to see that.”
Andrew Jakubowicz, a professor of sociology at University of Technology, Sydney, told HuffPost Australia the narrative behind the cartoon Evans shared is “truly nasty and terrifying”.
Referring to Evans’s post, he said, “The cartoon refers to a conversation between a slow-witted [Trump supporter, the caterpillar] who is slightly behind the times but who will transform into a butterfly/moth with the 12 zoned sun which shows Sig runes,” which are Nazi lightning bolt symbols.
“Essentially the neo-Nazi tells the caterpillar it’s only time until Trump supporters will ‘naturally’ transmute and become Nazis and stormtroopers and mass murders.”
Evans said in an Instagram post on Tuesday that, in his defence, he had to “google what neo-Nazi meant”.
Peter Wertheim AM, co-chief executive officer of the Executive Council of Australian Jewry (ECAJ), told HuffPost Australia he was not surprised brands were turning away from Evans and that “nobody with any self-respect would want to be associated” with the Black Sun symbol.
Of course, this isn’t the first time Evans, who was dumped by Channel 7 from ‘My Kitchen Rules’ in May, has made headlines for peddling misinformation to his millions of followers.
Last week, Evans, who is a Trump supporter, said face masks should be thrown in the bin while calling for a “vaccine to be replaced with organic food, plant medicines, sunlight, functional medicine doctors and other natural health practitioners, breathwork, homeopathy, and great sleep”.
Earlier this year, the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) fined him for claiming a gadget could cure “the Wuhan coronavirus”. He’s also called COVID-19 a “bullshit virus” and questioned the role of people’s lifestyle choices in whether they die of coronavirus.
“Now it’s very controversial, but how did these people live their lives?” he asked on the Ideas Digest podcast.
“What choices did they make through their lives to get Type 2 diabetes or heart disease, or this or that or the other?”
Alicia Vrajlal contributed to this report.