Sponsors drop Alan Jones after attack on PM

Denounced by both sides of politics for his offensive remarks about the death of Prime Minister Julia Gillard's father, radio broadcaster Alan Jones was today left counting the cost in dollars.

"The old man recently died a few weeks ago of shame," Jones told a packed Sydney University Liberal Club dinner last Saturday, referring to the death of John Gillard. "To think that he had a daughter who told lies every time she stood for Parliament."

The remarks prompted an avalanche of outrage from the community, on social networks and from both sides of politics.

Investment management firm Challenger has confirmed it has cancelled its advertising relationship with Jones's program on Sydney radio station 2GB.

Another advertiser, Freedom Furniture, has also pulled its advertising from Jones's program.

"You spoke, we listened," Freedom said via its Twitter account. "We do not support the comments made by Alan Jones. We have pulled our advertising off air."

Mercedes-Benz Australia has also joined the list of companies to withdraw all advertising and marketing associated with Jones.

The German luxury car maker and its network of NSW dealers are believed to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars each year advertising with 2GB, which is part owned by Jones.

Mercedes-Benz Australia spokesman David McCarthy said the decision to withdraw all advertising was ''made with immediate effect due to the inappropriate remarks made by Alan Jones''.

No doubt because it could see the approaching storm, 2GB removed a list of the station's advertisers from its website.

Two radio stations in regional NSW have today dumped Jones from their line-ups in light of the comments, The Border Mail reports.

Jones's usual highlights show on 2AY from noon to 1pm has been replaced with the Easy Listening Lunch.

Station head Mark Taylor said the listener feedback made the decision an easy one which he would not revisit.

Challenger's decision was made yesterday after Jones's televised apology to Ms Gillard.

VIDEO: 'The old man died of shame'

A Challenger spokesman said the company, which manages more than $33 billion in assets, had been considering the move from the moment it became aware of Jones's remarks about Ms Gillard's father but it had delayed its decision in order to hear Jones's response.

"They were deeply hurtful comments and we're not sure the apology reflected the degree of offence they would have caused," the spokesman said.

Challenger, which has advertised with Jones's program since February last year, was not alone in feeling his apology was underwhelming.

Social networks have been flooded with criticism of the apology.

Recalled from a long-weekend holiday, Jones shifted authorship of his remarks to a guest at a family function earlier in the day.

VIDEO: 'I shouldn't have repeated' these remarks

In that sense, he said, he "repeated" them.

He has also reiterated his belief that the remarks were made at a "private" function, even though the dinner at which he spoke was a fund-raiser for which tickets were publicly available.

Jones told a media conference his earlier comments that Ms Gillard should be dumped at sea in a chaff bag were an example of city dwellers misinterpreting an inoffensive country epithet.

Supermarket giant Woolworths is also under fire. A jacket made out of a chaff bag, a reference to Jones's remarks, was donated to the Liberal Club dinner as an auction item by Woolworths community relations manager Simon Berger.

Jones bought the jacket on the night.

Woolworths responded on its Facebook page, acknowledging it had received feedback "calling for us to pull advertising and sponsorship from Alan Jones' program".

"To be clear, we do not and have not recently sponsored this program. From time to time we have had advertising during this program. However, this morning we have made a decision to suspend this advertising," the company said.

Woolworths said a staff member, "in a private capacity, [had] attended the Young Liberals function".

"Woolworths in no way supports the comments made at that function," the statement said.

The organiser of the dinner where the offensive remarks were made - the Sydney University Liberal Club - has made a ham-fisted attempt to distance itself from the scandal.

The Twitter account operated by the club had tweeted last week: "Brilliant speech by Alan Jones last night. It's no wonder he's the nation's most influential broadcaster."

That tweet was deleted on Saturday night as outrage sparked by the remarks gained momentum on social networks.

Meanwhile, the petition started by 22-year-old Sydney student and credit union worker Nic Lochner has attracted more than 40,000 signatures, making it one of the fastest growing campaigns to date on the Australian arm of change.org.

Mr Lochner started the petition, his first, about 10pm on Saturday. "Frankly, I wasn't even expecting to get 1000 signatures," he told Fairfax.

Mr Lochner said he was motivated by a desire to improve the tenor of public discourse in Australia.

"I'm a young person who is completely sick of the toxic environment around politics at the moment, and I'm looking to change that as much as I can," he said.

He claimed to be serious about wanting Jones to step down or to have 2GB and its advertisers sever their relationship with him.

"It's not a one-off sort of thing," he said of Jones's attack on the Prime Minister. "Alan is making the same mistake over and over again so the apologies are falling on deaf ears."

Sponsors that have cancelled:

Freedom Furniture

Challenger

Mercedes-Benz

Woolworths

Lexus of Parramatta

Considering cancelling:

JJ Metro West

Sponsor clarifications:

Harris Partners says it sponsors 2GB, not Jones

- with MARK HAWTHORNE

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