A lot can happen in 24 hours, and in celebrity chef Pete Evans’s case, one controversial social media post has led to a series of lucrative business opportunities with big brands ending within a mere day.
The former ‘My Kitchen Rules’ judge has reportedly been dropped from the cast of ‘I’m a Celebrity... Get Me Out of Here!’, while a major publishing house has confirmed his contract won’t be renewed and other brands have also distanced themselves from the media personality.
On Monday evening, many Twitter users called for Evans, who had been rumoured to be part of the ‘I’m a Celeb’ cast, to be dropped from the lineup by Channel 10 after he shared a cartoon of a caterpillar wearing a “Make America Great Again” hat from the Donald Trump presidential campaign in the US, speaking to a butterfly with wings featuring the Black Sun wheel.
The Black Sun is a prominent white nationalist symbol that was used by extremist movements and neo-Nazis who marched during the deadly “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, in 2017. The symbol was featured on the body armour worn by the gunman who killed dozens of worshippers at two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand, last year. He had declared his hatred for Muslim immigrants in Europe and idolised US extremist movements.
“Used after the war by neo-Nazis, Satanists, and ultimately the Christchurch killer, it [the Black Sun] reverberates with neo-Nazis worldwide,” Andrew Jakubowicz, a professor of sociology at University of Technology, Sydney, told HuffPost Australia. “It became a replacement symbol for the swastika after the war when most of Europe banned the swastika.”
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 didn’t immediately respond to HuffPost Australia’s request for comment. He said in an Instagram post later Tuesday that, in his defence, he had to “google what neo-Nazi meant”.
Peter Wertheim AM, co-chief executive officer of Executive Council of Australian Jewry (ECAJ), told HuffPost Australia: “The cartoon seems to be giving a stamp of approval to the mainstream centre-right of politics in the US, symbolised by the MAGA hat, flirting with and metamorphosing into a new Nazism, symbolised by the sonnenrad,” or Black Sun.
Jakubowicz said “normalising hate symbols is one of the ways neo-Nazis and their ilk naturalise the language of hate and white supremacy.
“The narrative of the cartoon is truly nasty and terrifying, and designed to be. [It] creates a slow chuckle among the ultra-right, especially when it gets widely publicised.”
In Evans’s case, when one person noted the Black Sun symbol in the comment sections on Facebook, Evans responded, “I was waiting for someone to see that”.
He later deleted the post and apologised, writing on Instagram, “Sincere apologies to anyone who misinterpreted a previous post of a caterpillar and a butterfly having a chat over a drink and perceived that I was promoting hatred.
“I look forward to studying all of the symbols that have ever existed and research them thoroughly before posting.”
Speculation that Evans would appear on ‘I’m a Celeb’ was rife after the show dropped a clue on Friday that a “renowned chef” would be entering the Aussie jungle when filming begins this week.
On Tuesday, a Channel 10 spokesperson didn’t confirm whether Evans was ever in the initial cast lineup but told HuffPost Australia in a statement, “Network 10 can confirm that Pete Evans will not be appearing on this season of I’m A Celebrity… Get Me Out Of Here!”
Founder of television news website TV Blackbox and former Studio 10 executive producer Rob McKnight claimed Tuesday morning that Channel 10 “fired him [Evans] at 6:30am this morning!”
“Channel Ten have done the right thing this morning, they’ve taken him off air. I think his TV career is done and dusted, no one will touch him,” McKnight told Nova FM’s Fitzy and Wippa. “The neo-Nazi stuff is a bit too far.”
McKnight claimed Channel 10 apparently made this decision after publishing house Pan Macmillan confirmed on Monday that it “will not be entering any further publishing agreements moving forward” with the chef.
“Pan Macmillan is currently finalising its contractual relationship with Pete Evans and as such will not be entering any further publishing agreements moving forward.
“If any retailer wishes to return Pete Evans’ books please contact Pan Macmillan,” a statement said.
On Tuesday, Big W also said it would align itself with Pan Macmillan in terms of stocking Evans’s books in its stores.
“BIG W reviews its range of books regularly to ensure it is aligned with our family values,” the retailer said in a statement supplied to HuffPost Australia. “We have decided to remove Pete Evans’ book titles from the BIG W range from 17 November in line with Pan Macmillan’s offer.”
Woolworths, which stocks a number of coconut water and coconut oil products from the Raw C brand, which Evans was previously associated with, also released a statement.
“We appreciate the community concern over recent comments,” the supermarket stated.
“Woolworths Supermarkets has conveyed its own concerns directly with supplier Raw C, who subsequently advised its relationship with Pete Evans ended earlier this year.”
Owner of Raw C, Scott Mendelsohn, said product labelling is being updated and will take a few months to appear on the stock on supermarket shelves.
“Pete was associated with the business and we took steps 24 months ago to take him off our packaging. The new packaging doesn’t have his name on it. He hasn’t done any marketing with us since April,” Mendelsohn told SBS program, The Feed.
Supermarket Coles, which stocks some of the chef’s food products, said it’s “in discussions regarding the removal of these products from our range”.
“Coles is committed to providing a safe and inclusive environment in which to work and shop,” a Coles spokesperson said in a statement to HuffPost Australia.
“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.
“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, who was dumped by Channel 7 from ‘My Kitchen Rules’ in May, has made headlines in the past for being involved in various controversies.
Earlier this year, the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) fined him over claims he made on a Facebook livestream that a ‘BioCharger’ device had magical coronavirus eradication properties.
“It’s programmed with a thousand different recipes, and there’s a couple in there for the Wuhan coronavirus,” the ad said about the gadget.
In a statement, the TGA said it “received a number of complaints about the promotion of a ‘BioCharger’ device that occurred during a Facebook live stream on 9 April 2020.
“Mr Evans allegedly live streamed on his Facebook page, which has more than 1.4 million followers, claims that the device could be used in relation to ‘Wuhan Coronavirus’ ― a claim which has no apparent foundation, and which the TGA takes extremely seriously.”
The TGA said a second infringement notice was issued for “alleged advertising breaches on the website www.peteevans.com, which is maintained by the Company.”
“So [do] we have the belief in ourselves that we are contagious, that we are spreaders of something?” he said on the podcast. “I choose not to believe in that narrative because it doesn’t make any sense to me.”
Also speaking about people with “comorbidities” who are more susceptible to contracting COVID-19, he asked, “Now it’s very controversial, but how did these people live their lives? What choices did they make through their lives to get type 2 diabetes or heart disease or this or that or the other?”
Never miss a thing. Sign up to HuffPost Australia’s weekly newsletter for the latest news, exclusives and guides to achieving the good life.