Åström, 90, had co-presented the first two episodes of Böglobbyn (The Gay Lobby), on SVT 2.
The former Swedish Ambassador to the UN and chief civil servant at the Sweden’s foreign ministry came out as gay in 2003, at the age of 88. He was named Gay of the Year in 2004 and published a new Swedish translation of Michelanglo’s sonnets in 2005.
Quitting the programme, he wrote in an email to ex-SVT chief Christina Jutterström that he had been portrayed “in a silly and humiliating light.”
The first episode of the show received mixed reviews. A report on men cruising for casual sex in a park in Umeå was slammed by gay rights group RFSL as unrepresentative and shallow.
In the email, obtained by gay magazine QX, Åström said that he had agreed to participate in the programme because he thought it could “contribute to greater understanding for the continuing difficult situation for homosexuals, with discrimination in the workplace, defamation, gossip, threats of violence and even the risk of murder.”
He concluded, however, that the show had failed to meet his standards:
“According to my judgment, the programme is for the most part vulgar and tasteless.”
Magnus Telander, spokesman for the programme, told The Local that the show was supposed to “discover mankind from a gay perspective,” and was aimed at a regular TV audience.
He said the programme makers were “humble” in the face of Åström’s resignation, but said that he had left “with no hard feelings.”
“We are sad about this, because he has so much experience and so much character.”
“There are lots of opinions about the programme, and that’s OK. The guys and gays working on the show believe in it,” he added.
Two pre-recorded programmes featuring Åström will still be shown, Telander said.