When Scott Morrison says he was blessed not to have any disabled children, there’s an outcry. The media are constantly waiting to pounce on the Australian prime minister for any injudicious word or phrase, no matter how harmless the intent.
Yet when Jacinda Ardern is reunited with a former Japanese homestay pupil who stayed with the Ardern family 30-odd years ago and comments that “I grew up to be taller than you”, no one thinks to complain that she has belittled short people.
Of course no one should, because it was an innocent remark. Yet the contrast is revealing.
Morrison wasn’t callously asserting some imagined privilege or suggesting that parents with disabled children weren’t themselves blessed. Only people who are ideologically programmed to take offence – which, unfortunately, means most journalists – would have interpreted it that way.
Politicians are constantly at risk of making make off-the-cuff comments without considering how they might be wilfully misconstrued by opportunistic opponents and hostile media. They’re human, after all. But obviously the reporters who witnessed the meeting between Ardern and Madoka Watanabe had turned off their offence detectors for the day.