SYDNEY, Australia (JTA) – A Melbourne radio host who claims Jewish descent was suspended for one month for shouting “Sieg Heil” three times at the mother of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange.
John Michael Howson, 76, a talk-back host on 3AW Radio, reacted angrily with the Nazi taunts after Assange’s mother, Christine, said she would not conduct an interview on Sunday morning after the way Howson had treated the previous caller.
“I won’t be doing an interview with you because you’re acting like a pig,” Christine Assange said before hanging up.
Howson immediately responded by shouting, “Sieg Heil! Sieg Heil! Sieg Heil!”
The network aired a pre-recorded apology by Howson Tuesday as the station announced his suspension.
Howson rejected accusations he was anti-Semitic, telling the Herald Sun newspaper his great-grandmother was Jewish and that he had participated at fundraisers for Temple Beth Israel, the city’s largest Reform synagogue.
But on Tuesday he said he was “thrilled” that he had become a “cause célèbre.”
“In fact, thanks for the publicity,” he told a Sydney radio station.
“Somebody said that saying ‘Sieg Heil’ meant I was anti-Semitic,” the Australian Associated Press reported him as saying. “I have a Jewish great-grandmother, I have a mezuzah hanging on the wall at my front door, I have a yarmulke in the wardrobe … and if you go into my pantry you will see matzah.”