By: Evin Priest
NSW Deputy Premier John Barilaro has threatened to sue a popular YouTube comedian over alleged defamatory comments.
YouTube comedian Friendlyjordies – whose real name is Jordan Shanks – posted videos last year that appeared to mock Mr Barilaro’s accent.
Shanks imitated Mr Barilaro in an exaggerated Italian accent, repeatedly using the word “bruz” and swearing, while also making fun of Premier Gladys Berejiklian’s handling of the Black Summer bushfire crisis.
According to screenshots posted to Friendlyjordies’ Facebook page, lawyers acting for Mr Barilaro have sent a legal letter demanding he remove the videos, apologise and pay him compensation “for the hurt and harm that he has suffered by reason of your conduct”.
“Your vile and racist attacks on our client have caused him immense personal hurt,” the letter reads.
The lawyers threaten to launch defamation proceedings in the Federal Court if the demands are not met.
Mr Barilaro lashed out at Shanks at the time the video was posted, calling the impersonation “very offensive” and “racist”.
On Monday, Shanks uploaded a video to his Friendlyjordies YouTube account holding papers that appear to be legal warnings.
“OK you ready for this? The deputy premier of New South Wales, John Barilaro, ‘bruz’ himself, has threatened to sue,” Shanks said in the video.
Screenshots in the video read “the first video is grossly defamatory of our client”.
Shanks said of the claims: “I made fun of (Mr Barilaro) … and naturally his response was to call me racist for putting on an Italian accent while doing so.”
Later on in the 45-minute clip, another man appears to approach Mr Barilaro at a function and asks, “I want to know why you are threatening to sue?”
Mr Barilaro is seen responding, “I’m not threatening to sue, I am suing.”
When the man asks why Mr Barilaro has commenced defamation proceedings, Mr Barilaro answers, “Because you guys are liars.”
Ms Berejiklian was born in Australia to Armenian parents and began speaking English at the age of five.
Mr Barilaro’s parents are Italian and they moved to Australia in the late 1960s.
“I don’t mind taking the mickey out of myself, but this is actually very offensive. It’s a low attempt at comedy and full of racist undertones,” Mr Barilaro told The Daily Telegraph last year when asked about the video.
“To imitate both myself and the Premier with such obvious distaste for our backgrounds is unacceptable.
“Our migrant story is actually the Australian success story, one this nation is proud of.”
NCA NewsWire has contacted Mr Barilaro’s office for comment but did not receive a response before publication.