A French television host is being accused of spearheading a homophobic prank on unsuspecting meet-up app subscribers.
Host Cyril Hanouna, of Don’t Touch My TV Set (Touche Pas A Mon Poste) created a fake app profile saying that he was “very sporty and well endowed,” and liked to be insulted.
As bait, he pirated an image of model and YouTuber Max Emerson.
After he got responses from those who were interested, he put the unsuspecting marks across the television airwaves, mocking them in front of more than a million people.
Activists and community members were outraged by the catfish stunt and the station received more than 20,000 complaints to the Conseil supérieur de l’audiovisuel (CSA).
One of the slighted men who called the TV host and was mocked on air reportedly called Le Refuge, a hotline for people suffering from the effects of homophobia.
Nicolas Noguier an operator at the hotline said he was on the phone with the gentleman all night.
“We were devastated by his tears and his fear of being found out by his parents and those around him,” Noguier said, according to the BBC.
As for the model used in the profile picture, Max Emerson was informed of his likeness in the prank and initially wanted to know if it was funny. After finding out the nature of the joke, he tweeted that anyone wanting to pursue a lawsuit he would donate all the money to GLAAD.
BuzzFeed reports that several advertisers were quick to distance themselves from being affiliated with the show. Petit Navire, Bosch, Chanel, Disneyland Paris, Decathlon and the PSA group ave already pulled their commercials.
Food company Petit Navire told the publication, “Petit Navire wishes to make clear that it does not in any way endorse any discriminatory or humiliating statement. In this context, the brand stopped its current sponsorship campaign for the show.”
Defending accusations about the spirit of his joke, host Cyril Hanouna said in a statement, “Homophobia is everything I’ve been fighting against for years, just like xenophobia, racism and misogyny. And today being called homophobic makes me feel really sad.”