Norman Swan apologises for linking Kimberley Kitching and Shane Warne’s deaths to Covid

Swan suggested there might be a Covid link with deaths of Labor senator and cricketing legend

The ABC broadcaster Norman Swan has apologised to the late Kimberley Kitching’s family for saying on ABC News the Labor senator’s death may have been linked to Covid-19.

Swan also linked Shane Warne’s death to Covid, saying “it’s too much of a coincidence” that the cricketing great died not long after a Covid infection.

ABC News Breakfast on Wednesday morning repeated Swan’s apology.

“Dr Norman Swan has issued an apology after suggesting there may be a Covid link to the deaths of Labor senator Kimberley Kitching and cricket great Shane Warne,” Michael Rowland said.

“He made those comments during his interview on our program yesterday. Dr Swan says he’s personally apologised to Senator Kitching’s husband yesterday and that he made an error he regrets.”

Warne died of a heart attack aged 52 while holidaying in Koh Samui, Thailand, in March.

“I 100% accept that I got it wrong,” Swan told Guardian Australia. “And no matter what the context I can’t escape the fact that I hurt the family and I apologise for that and feel terrible about it.”

The ABC said on Wednesday that Swan’s on-air comments did not meet the broadcaster’s editorial standards.

“Dr Swan has had discussions with ABC management about the comments,” a spokesperson said. “He understands the comments did not meet the ABC’s editorial standards.”

On News Breakfast on Tuesday, the Host of ABC RN’s Health Report was talking about a study that linked Covid infection to a far higher risk of having a heart attack, stroke or thrombosis.

“It’s too much of a coincidence that Shane Warne and the Labor senator in Victoria died not long after a Covid infection, and people are reporting sudden death after Covid infection,” Swan said. “It’s not benign.”

Do we slow it down or is just a wee wave? This week’s Coronacast.

— Norman Swan (@normanswan) November 15, 2022

The co-host of the ABC’s Coronacast podcast is seen as a trusted voice on the pandemic and has been a health broadcaster for 30 years.

After he was contacted on Tuesday by the Daily Mail about linking Kitching and Warne to Covid, he doubled down, saying Warne had “lots of risk factors for heart disease, but if he was going to get a bit of extra inflammation from Covid, that could have tipped him over the edge”.

“These are two high-profile people,” he told the Daily Mail.

“One of whose death was a complete surprise, and they both had Covid in the background. These weren’t private deaths, they were very public and had an impact on a lot of people who scratched their heads and wondered why, and that could have been a reason.

“If I thought it was hurtful to the families, I wouldn’t have said it.

“What would be hurtful is saying Kimberley Kitching had a dreadful lifestyle, if I was blaming her for the heart attack that would be a dreadful thing to say to the family. But if it’s a side effect of Covid it starts to explain things.”

Swan explained he thought it may be helpful to have an explanation and also to warn people not to be blasé about catching Covid.

However, when Swan heard later on Tuesday that he had upset Kitching’s family, he apologised.

Kitching’s family told Swan she did not test positive for Covid before she died suddenly at the age of 52, after suffering a suspected heart attack.

Her death prompted an outpouring of grief but also political backbiting, fuelled by Bill Shorten’s observation that “the stress of politics and the machinations in the back rooms had its toll” on her.

James Erskine, Warne’s long-term manager, said on Wednesday that he was unimpressed with Swans’ comments.

“He has no idea of the circumstances, he has no idea of the medical records, he probably has never met the people he’s talking about, and he’s being totally disrespectful to the families,” Erskine told the Nine newspapers.


Amanda Meade

The GuardianTramp

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