LATEST: A Perth talkback radio host has been suspended pending an internal inquiry after provoking outrage and bemusement by questioning the sexuality of Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard's partner.
Howard Sattler offered the Prime Minister a chance to dispel ''myths, rumours, snide jokes and innuendo'' at the tail-end of a digressive interview on Fairfax-owned station 6PR yesterday afternoon Perth time.
''Tim's gay,'' was the first rumour Mr Sattler raised.
''Well, that's absurd,'' the Prime Minister replied flatly.
''But you hear it - he must be gay, he's a hairdresser,'' Mr Sattler said. ''It's not me saying it.''
The Prime Minister dismissed the suggestion. But Mr Sattler pressed the point.
"You can confirm that he's not?" he asked.
''Oh Howard don't be ridiculous, of course not,'' the Prime Minister said, while remaining cool and composed. ''On the internet there are lots of [...] nutjobs, people who peddle and circulate vile things.
"Howard let me just bring you back to earth, you and I have just talked about me and Tim living at the lodge, we live there together as a couple, you know that."
The interview comes towards the end of a week in which the Prime Minister has been subject to personal attacks, and gone on the offensive about sexism in politics.
Mr Sattler had previously asked the Prime Minister why she was not married.
She replied: "I think that you can have a relationship that is committed and full of love and full of significance in your life without being married."
"Howard Sattler, Drive presenter on Perth radio station 6PR, put a number of questions to Prime Minister Julia Gillard regarding the sexuality of her partner, Tim Mathieson," 6PR said in a statement released overnight.
"Mr Sattler has been suspended from broadcasting on 6PR pending an internal inquiry."
Reaction to the interview online was a mixture of confusion and anger: ''Baffling interview,'' said Twitter user Andrew Heslop.
"Howard Sattler should be sacked," wrote Patrick Avenell, "no one would ever ask a male PM the inverse."
Other users questioned why Mr Sattler was given a weekly platform on the Channel 7 morning show, Sunrise.
Mr Sattler is a 25-year broadcast veteran known for his polarising style.
He recently disclosed that he had been battling Parkinson's disease since being diagnosed in June last year.
-Fairfax Media Australia