'Exploitative': Charity slams Channel 7's 'appalling' Ben Cousins interview

Ben Cousins answering questions in a Channel 7 interview.
A charity, Sober in the Country, has condemned the Channel 7 interview with Ben Cousins. (Image: Twitter)

A charity has led the condemnation of the Ben Cousins interview with Channel 7 demanding an apology from the network for an “exploitative” piece.

Cousins sat down with Basil Zempilas for his first interview in 10 years, with ‘Ben Cousins: Coming Clean’ airing on Channel 7 on Sunday night.

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But many have panned the interview with charity CEO Shanna Whan and veteran AFL reporter Caroline Wilson leading the way.

Whan is the founder and CEO Sober in the Country, a charity working to help initiatives for those struggling with alcohol abuse in regional areas, and has documented her life as a former addict and specifically recovered alcoholic.

In her charity blog, Whan demanded an apology from Channel 7 for an “exploitative” interview on a “fragile” human being.

“Last night Channel 7 aired a documentary called ‘Ben Cousins: Coming Clean’ – and I speak on behalf of plenty of us on the addictions frontline when I say it was the most grossly negligent, exploitative and abhorrent piece of media yet in 2020,” she wrote.

“The misleading title was the first of endless ethical offences and breaches for which Channel 7 and the interviewer Basil Zempilas need to issue an apology; because Ben Cousins is clearly anything but ‘coming clean.’”

Ben Cousins of the Tigers leaving the field looking dejected.
Ben Cousins of the Tigers leaves the field at half time in 2010 in Melbourne, Australia. (Photo by Scott Barbour/Getty Images)

“What he ‘is’ is a patently fragile, sick, and extremely vulnerable high-risk human being who was literally paraded like a monkey with appalling editing and a D-Grade soundtrack last night for nothing more than station-ratings.”

She also took to Twitter during the interview to label the segment “appalling” and said she was happy she turned down the network covering her story.

“... watching this Ben Cousins interview makes me very, very glad I said no to that network covering my story. Argh. Appalling. The man is NOT okay. Nor is this interview Duty of care? Zero. I’m actually fuming,” she wrote.

Whan wasn’t alone in her criticism.

Caroline Wilson slams Cousins interview

Veteran AFL columnist Wilson also slammed the “beyond grubby" and "beyond demeaning" interview.

One moment included when interviewer Zempilas showed the former Eagles star a nude photo of himself and Wilson wasn’t happy with the line of questioning.

"Basil, the blokey nudge, the dreadful follow-up question, the assumption that this was in any way an acceptable line to pursue or a conversation to be held on prime time television," she said on Footy Classified.

“Were you all so desperate for a 'gotcha' moment in the story of a fallen hero who is desperately seeking relevance but (is) completely lacking clarity and an inability to explain how or why all this happened?”

Another moment that struck AFL great Kane Cornes was when Cousins struggled to give a straight answer about whether he’d used drugs during the five-day filming period.

What was dubbed as a ‘tell-all’ interview left many viewers feeling flat.

Scores of fans criticised the interview for failing to reveal any new information about Cousins’ plight, while many including Giteau felt it was inappropriate given Cousins is still clearly struggling.

The Brownlow Medal winner and six-time All Australian played 238 games for West Coast before he was axed in 2007 after he was arrested on drug-related charges.

He was banned by the AFL for 12 months for bringing the game into disrepute soon after he was dumped by the Eagles.

He went on to play 32 games in two years at Richmond before retiring at the age of 32 at the end of the 2010 season.

But Cousins’ life spun out of control in retirement, his issues with drug dependency resulting in him spending time in jail.

“Channel 7 couldn’t care less about Ben Cousins in my opinion,” Giteau tweeted on Sunday night after watching the interview. “Just wanted the story.”

“I felt he was taken advantage of badly and the whole thing was just sad. Say what you want of him but I really hope he gets the help he desperately needs.”