The CEO of Australia’s Qantas Airways was rendered speechless Tuesday when he was struck with a pie in the face by a same-sex marriage opponent at a business breakfast.
Alan Joyce was about to start his speech at the West Business Leadership Matters event in Perth, Australia when a man walked onto the Hyatt Regency stage and smashed the pie directly in his face. Momentarily lost for words, Joyce quickly excused himself to get cleaned up, the BBC reports.
Police arrested the culprit, who was identified as Tony Overheu, and charged the 67-year-old with giving false details after the incident, which took place in front of about 500 people. Joyce, 50, told the BBC that he has “every intention” of pressing additional charges against Overheu, but did not specify what those would be.
A former farmer, Overheu told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) that he wanted to make a statement about marriage equality, which he opposes. Joyce, who is openly gay, has been an outspoken supporter of same-sex marriage, which is not currently recognized in Australia.
“Alan Joyce is a very active individual in this process [towards marriage equality] and in that context he was appropriate [to target],” Overheu told ABC. Calling himself a “law-abiding person” who has “never done that sort of thing,” he added, “When the community is grumpy, figures who are overstepping the line have got to anticipate there will be pushback in some shape or form.”
Ironically, Overheu’s gesture was reminiscent of a 1977 incident in which singer Anita Bryant got a pie in the face at a Florida press conference. At the time, Bryant was the leader of a conservative Christian coalition called Save Our Children, and was being interviewed about her opposition to LGBTQ rights.
In an interview with Perth Now, Overheu said his wife and family were “outraged” at his behavior, and said he’d since apologized to Joyce and the Hyatt Regency for the move.
Joyce appeared to be in good spirits as he spoke to reporters following the incident, joking that he wasn’t able to determine what kind of pie had been used. “I didn’t have a chance to taste it. I think it was mostly on my glasses,” he said, as seen in the video above. “My issue is I need a good dry cleaner before I leave Perth.” (For the record, Overheu has said he used a lemon meringue pie.)