If you used Twitter or Facebook as your litmus test, then surely Mia Freedman must be the most despised person in Australian media right now?
But of course, this is not unfamiliar terrain for the media mogul who has managed to confound her critics year after year as her Mamamia empire has grown, today employing more than 100 people and turning over millions of dollars a year.
But what is it about Freedman, who writer Marieke Hardy once summed up as “execrable”, that upsets so many people, so often?
Freedman declined to provide any more fodder for this week’s media storm, which has engulfed the 45-year-old after American author Roxanne Gay described Freedman’s coverage of her as “cruel and humiliating”. Gay reacted angrily after Freedman revealed sensitive details about the negotiations between Gay’s publisher and Freedman’s Mamamia podcast producer, including whether she had a chair able to accommodate the “super morbidly obese” author.
While Mamamia later re-edited the podcast, taking out the material Gay deemed so offensive, and published a lengthy apoloogy, Freedman herself has been silent on the matter, though friends say the resulting media “pile on” and social media outrage has taken a heavy toll.
One of Freedman’s oldest friends, Today co-host Lisa Wilkinson, told PS: “Mia admits that she should have known better and her heartfelt apologies have made that utterly clear. But the level of outright hate directed at her has been nothing short of incredibly ugly and completely out of proportion to the crime committed.
“Sadly though, the all-in hatefest that ensued was symptomatic of the toxic ground that is somehow allowed to exist in social media. Mia has a long history of being a wonderful champion for change in so many areas and I just hope that this doesn’t discourage her from continuing on that course.”
In 2015 Freedman landed in an equally sticky situation after comparing gay people to paedophiles on The Project.
During a debate about a public sex offender register, Freedman said: “We accept that gay people can’t change who they love and who they’re sexually attracted to, so why do we think that people who are sexually attracted to children can be rehabilitated.”
Freedman later released a statement “unreservedly apologising” and attempting to explain the comments, saying she was “mortified” to have given “ammunition” to “bigots and haters”.