PR firm CEO in inconvenient row with comedian Sharul Channa over alleged sexual comments

CEO of crisis communication firm Strategic Moves, Viswa Sadasivan, was called out by stand-up comedian Sharul Channa for an inappropriate remark made during an interview for his talk show Inconvenient Questions. According to Channa, during a conversation prior to the recording of the show, Sadasivan asked her why she was wearing a rose on her top, to which she replied it was to distract viewers from the patterns on her top. In response, Sadasivan said: "It would be more distracting if you were wearing only that rose". 

While Channa said she carried on the interview due to professionalism, she later called the producers to remove her from the series and asked for an apology for the disrespectful remark. In an Instagram post, Channa expressed her discomfort and said, "I was taken aback by this innuendo. It was inappropriate and offensive." Channa also added that there were four other staff members on the call, three of them being women. 

Sadasivan has since also apologised to Channa over email where he expressed his "unconditional apology... for causing discomfort, offense or hurt, even though it was unintended ." He also shared that he "did not intend the statement about the rose to bear any sexual reference or innuendo" but could "see how it could have come across as such". However in a conversation with MARKETING-INTERACTIVE, Channa said Sadasivan did not assume any responsibility in his apology, as he did not acknowledge that his remark made was an innuendo.  She added that women should not go through such experiences be it in the workplace or online, and urged women to speak up against such remarks. Her Instagram post detailing the incident has gotten both positive and negative feedback.

MARKETING-INTERACTIVE has also reached out to Sadasivan for a statement on the matter. A quick check showed that currently, Sadasivan is the CEO of PR firm Strategic Moves and was a former anchor of news and current affairs programmes such as Talking Point and Today in Parliament. The firm offers services such as crisis communication, strategic communications and coaching and public engagement. On its website, the firm seems to have worked with many notable brands in Singapore. 

Inconsistency in statement

Meanwhile, several hours ago, Channa's husband, fellow comedian Rishi Budhrani also blasted out a post on his Instagram which claimed that Sadasivan has been circulating a WhatsApp message to his friends and family members over the incident. Budhrani claims the message is "more detailed" than that covered by the media and refutes the claim made that he was in the room when the remark was made. According to Budhrani, he had only stepped in to provide technical assistance to Channa and he "left within seconds" and as such, did not hear any conversation between Sadasivan and Channa happening over Zoom.

Women’s advocacy group AWARE Singapore which champions gender equality, has also praised Channa for speaking out about this incident. “Kudos to Channa for not letting the harassment slide, and [for] speaking up about her experience to the show's production team, and then on social media,” the statement said. It is added that in speaking up about it, Channa was “empowering and encouraging” other women to do the same.

AWARE also commented on Sadasivan's apology, stating that harassment is not evaluated by the subject’s conscious intentions, but by its impact on the victim. "It’s not valid for a harasser to say, 'I did not mean to cause hurt and distress, the victim misunderstood my intentions, so I am innocent.' In fact, to depict harassment as 'an error in judgment' glosses over the misogyny at its roots," AWARE added.

(Photo courtesy: Sharul's Facebook page and Generation T)

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